Projects in Colorado and California Will Demonstrate Drilling Innovations and Help Reduce Costs of Renewable Geothermal Energy  

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced over $15 million in funding for two projects that will reduce the cost of developing geothermal energy by generating at least a 25% improvement in geothermal drilling rates. DOE has set a goal of powering at least 40 million American homes with renewable geothermal power by 2050. Expanding this firm, flexible source of clean electricity will help meet President Biden’s goals of a clean electricity grid by 2035 and net-zero economy by 2050. These investments will also drive progress toward DOE’s Enhanced Geothermal Shot goal to reduce the costs of enhanced geothermal systems 90% by 2035. 

“There is incredible, untapped potential to use the heat beneath our feet to meet our energy demands with a renewable resource that can be found throughout the U.S.,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “By lowering the cost of drilling, we can make it easier to expand geothermal energy and help the country transition to a clean energy future while also creating good-paying jobs nationwide.” 

Geothermal energy is heat that flows continuously from the earth’s core. Wells can be drilled to tap that heat and draw it to the surface to generate electricity, heat and cool buildings, and other uses. DOE has a goal for geothermal to contribute at least 60 gigawatts of clean, renewable electricity in the United States by 2050, but only a fraction of that potential has been realized so far. 

One challenge to achieving this goal is drilling costs, which can represent more than half of the total costs of a geothermal project. By leveraging experience from oil and gas as well as laboratory research and industry and academic expertise, the new demonstration projects can dramatically reduce drilling costs and help make geothermal cost competitive with other energy sources. 

The selected projects are: 

  • Geothermal Limitless Approach to Drilling Efficiencies (GLADE) (Denver-Julesburg Basin, Colorado) – Occidental Petroleum and its partners from industry, national laboratories, and academia will drill twin high-temperature geothermal wells using existing and novel drilling technologies. The team plans to drill to deeper and hotter depths than most existing geothermal, and at a faster rate. (Approximate Award Amount: $9 million)
  • Evaluation of Physics-Based Drilling and Alternative Bit Design (The Geysers Geothermal Field, California) – Geysers Power Company and its partners from industry, national laboratories, and academia will deploy innovative drilling technology and methodologies to increase drilling rates by at least 25%. The work will include tests of varying methods in a range of temperatures and conditions. (Approximate Award Amount: $6.2 million) 

These projects build on earlier DOE investments to advance geothermal drilling technology and methods, helping to transfer research from laboratory settings into the field and, ultimately, the marketplace. 

Learn more about geothermal energy research at DOE