The Department of Energy (DOE) has set a new goal of making enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) more widely available by cutting its cost by 90 percent to $45 per megawatt hour (MWh) by 2035.
Enhanced geothermal systems drill wells deep below the Earth’s surface, at least 4,000 feet deep, and then inject fluids into human-made reservoirs where the natural heat and pressure creates steam that can be extracted and used to power a turbine.
Geothermal energy currently generates about 3.7 gigawatts (GW) in the United States, but a substantial amount of geothermal energy is not accessible with current technology. The DOE estimates that more than five terawatts of heat resources exist in the United States and that capturing a small fraction of that potential could affordably power over 40 million American homes.
The DOE said its Enhanced Geothermal Shot seeks to aggressively accelerate research, development, and demonstrations of EGS technology to better understand the subsurface, improve engineering to drill more wells faster, and capture more energy with larger wells and power plants.
EGS can also enable technologies for widespread deployment of geothermal heating and cooling that would allow buildings and whole communities to decarbonize, the DOE said.
Because geothermal technology relies heavily on drilling and construction, the workforce is similar to that of the oil and gas industry and presents an opportunity to transition skilled workers and entire communities from fossil fuels to clean energy, the DOE said.
“Achieving the Enhanced Geothermal Shot will go a long way toward reaching President Biden’s goals of 100% carbon pollution-free electricity by 2035 and net-zero emissions across the U.S. economy by 2050,” according to the DOE.
The DOE’s Enhanced Geothermal Shot is the fourth “Shot” announced in the agency’s Energy Earthshots Initiative that aims to break down scientific and technical barriers to tackling the climate crisis.