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First Commercial Success for Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) Spells Exponential Growth for Geothermal Energy

April 15, 2013 - 1:50pm

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Nevada-based industry partner Ormat Technologies leveraged DOE funds to deploy the nation's first commercial EGS at Desert Peak, Nevada. photo courtesy of Ormat

Nevada-based industry partner Ormat Technologies leveraged DOE funds to deploy the nation's first commercial EGS at Desert Peak, Nevada. photo courtesy of Ormat

(Washington, DC)– As part of the Obama Administration's all-of-the-above energy strategy, the Energy Department today recognized the nation's first commercial enhanced geothermal system (EGS) project to supply electricity to the grid. Leveraging $5.4 million in DOE funding matched by $2.6 million in industry investment, Nevada-based Ormat Technologies increased power output by 38% within an operating geothermal field at the Desert Peak 2 demonstration site, generating an additional 1.7 MW of power.  

"Developing America's vast renewable energy resources sustainably is an important part of President Obama's all-of-the-above energy strategy to create jobs and strengthen U.S. global competitiveness," said Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy David Danielson. "The Churchill County geothermal project represents a critical investment to ensure America leads in this growing global industry."  

Extending the life of unproductive wells using new technologies is one example of these innovations. With an increased injection rate up to 1500 gpm, the well stimulation at Desert Peak establishes new revenue, greater resource reserve, and production certainty, which boosts investor confidence. The Desert Peak success demonstrates that EGS technologies are within reach right now.  

"We're very pleased to have partnered with Ormat Technologies to achieve the first commercial EGS success in the United States," stated Doug Hollett, Director of DOE’s Geothermal Technologies Office. "Desert Peak is an example of our federal role to push the boundaries and do what has not been done before."  

This landmark accomplishment follows two other major DOE-funded technical achievements focused on demonstrating the commercial viability of EGS: The Calpine EGS demonstration at The Geysers in Middletown, California and the AltaRock project at Newberry Volcano near Bend, Oregon. Since the project’s inception, DOE has invested in more than four years of collaborative work among project partners Ormat, GeothermEx, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), U.S. Geological Survey, and Sandia National Laboratories (SNL), among others. 

"There is significant potential to develop EGS at lower cost in or near the margins of existing hydrothermal fields," said Lauren Boyd, EGS Program Manager for the Geothermal Technologies Office. "Our EGS portfolio gives us a pathway to bring EGS power online in the near-term while we go after that larger target of greenfield development." 

Enhanced geothermal system projects capture power from intensely hot rocks, buried thousands of feet below the surface, that lack the permeability or fluid saturation found in naturally occurring geothermal systems. EGS technologies utilize directional drilling and pressurized water to enhance flow paths in the subsurface rock and create new reservoirs, capturing energy from resources that were once considered uneconomical or unrecoverable.  

With a resource capacity estimated at more than 100 GWe in the United States alone, EGS has the potential to make a considerable contribution to the domestic renewable energy sector.  

The Geothermal Technologies Office supports innovative technologies that reduce both risk and costs of bringing baseload geothermal power online. 

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