Washington, DC - Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that the University of Utah will receive up to $140 million in continued funding over the next five years for cutting-edge geothermal research and development. After three years of planning, site characterization, and competition, the proposed site outside of Milford, Utah, has been selected as the location of the Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE) field laboratory. This new FORGE site is dedicated to research on enhanced geothermal systems (EGS), or manmade geothermal reservoirs.
“Enhanced geothermal systems are the future of geothermal energy, and critical investments in EGS will help advance American leadership in clean energy innovation,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. “Funding efforts toward the next frontier in geothermal energy technologies will help diversify the United States' domestic energy portfolio, enhance our energy access, and increase our energy security.”
Conventional geothermal resources occur naturally in the U.S. but are geographically limited due to the necessary co-location of heat, permeability, and fluid deep underground. Currently, American geothermal electricity production is located solely in the western states, where conventional geothermal resources put about 3.8 gigawatts (GW) of electricity on the grid.
Manmade geothermal reservoirs can be engineered wherever hot rocks are found, and since such formations are almost ubiquitous – they just vary in depth – those reservoirs have the potential to be utilized practically everywhere. EGS could significantly expand geothermal energy production, with an estimated 100 GW of currently inaccessible resources, removing the geographic barriers of conventional geothermal resources.
Critical to broad EGS deployment, FORGE will be a laboratory where scientists and researchers can learn how to engineer these manmade systems. The geothermal community will gain a fundamental understanding of the key mechanisms controlling EGS success; develop, test, and improve new techniques in an ideal EGS environment; and rapidly disseminate technical data and communicate to the public.
Exceptional, creative, and responsible technological innovation, such as that taking place at FORGE, is not only necessary to bring EGS to technical maturity, but is also a critical step on America’s path to energy security and global geothermal energy leadership.