Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy

Energy Under Our Feet: SubTER Initiative Taps into Geothermal’s Potential

March 8, 2016

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Beneath the surface of the Earth, there lies the potential to satisfy more than four-fifths of our nation’s energy needs. How do we optimize how we manage and invest this vast energy resource?

The Department of Energy (DOE) has formed a first-of-its-kind team: the Subsurface Technology and Engineering Research, Development, and Demonstration (SubTER) initiative. SubTER aims to improve energy security, environmental protection, and economic and social benefits by addressing issues including: increasing U.S. electricity production from geothermal reservoirs; safe storage of carbon dioxide (CO2) to meet greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets; and drinking water protection.

One exciting example of how SubTER is making a difference is through a project DOE is funding with the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), the Oklahoma Geologic Survey, and five national laboratories to harness the power of high performance supercomputing with the latest in geospatial analysis.

What’s the goal? The NETL project estimates the probability of induced seismicity due to human underground activity by analyzing large data sets, or Big Data, to reveal patterns, trends, and associations. This new approach will help facilitate future development of clean geothermal resources and expand our scientific understanding of Earth’s subsurface. The results of this big data project will be made publicly available on DOE’s Energy Data eXchange.

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Image credit: National Energy Technology Laboratory

In addition, DOE has recently released a funding opportunity announcement of approximately $9 million to continue to address subsurface research, development, and demonstration challenges. The funding aims to advance technologies in carbon storage as well as technologies employed to identify and validate subsurface signals used to progress geothermal exploration.  

For more information, view the full funding opportunity announcement here.

DOE continues to lead the way in cutting-edge geothermal science, advancing our mission to develop clean, reliable, sustainable and affordable energy for our nation. With this kind of crosscutting collaboration across DOE offices and our national labs, we’ll learn more about the structures of the world beneath our feet and make smarter use of its energy potential including providing hundreds of years of safe storage capacity for CO2 and more than 100 gigawatts equivalent of clean, renewable geothermal energy.