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The Energy Department recently announced the teams selected for negotiation for Phase 1 of the Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE).
FORGE is a dedicated site where the scientific community can develop and test enhanced geothermal system (EGS) technologies in a permitted and drilled test field, with the end goal of creating market-ready, renewable energy. EGS, unlike natural geothermal systems, are engineered geothermal reservoirs beneath the surface of the Earth, where there is hot rock but limited pathways through which fluid can flow. During EGS development, underground fluid pathways are created and their size and connectivity increased. Through these enhanced pathways, fluid can flow throughout the hot rock, heat up to hundreds of degrees, and channel the abundant heat source to the surface to generate electricity.
As part of Phase 1, the five selectees will complete technical and logistical tasks that determine if their proposed site has ideal geology. The awardees will be required to assess all available site characterization data and compile it into a geologic model of the proposed site. In Phase 2, up to three teams will fully instrument, characterize, and permit candidate sites for drilling and full-scale operations at FORGE for the third and final stage. Pending appropriations, Phase 3 will fund the implementation of a single FORGE site where partners from industry, academia, and the national laboratories will have a dedicated location to conduct new and innovative R&D in critical EGS research areas that could potentially lead to widespread adoption.
EGS technology currently is not well-known or prevalent in the American energy landscape, yet this technology has the potential to power 100 million homes. To put that in context, that’s 80 percent of current U.S. households. By investing in further R&D toward creating ideal geothermal conditions for EGS with FORGE, the United States can move one step closer to energy security and environmental sustainability.
Once replicable studies identify the best practices for injecting fluids and increasing rock permeability, geothermal energy could be produced in virtually any area where there are hot rocks at depth. EGS technology has the potential to make us wonder how we got along without it.