GTO focuses on reducing geothermal development costs and risks by researching and advancing innovative technologies that address exploration and operational challenges; identifying and solving nontechnical barriers; and pursuing data collection to support technical and nontechnical work. GTO is organized into four subprograms, each of which funds research across the six Research Areas and contributes to the three Strategic Goals:
- Enhanced Geothermal Systems. The focus of the EGS subprogram is to obtain understanding of basic and applied science challenges surrounding long-term subsurface heat flow, permeability enhancement, and stress evolution to support the development of replicable, sustainable heat exchangers. In the long term, strengthening the body of EGS knowledge through early-stage RD&D, field testing, and other innovative research will support industry to deploy the EGS levels calculated in the GeoVision analysis. GTO’s EGS subprogram research addresses meeting the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) target of $0.06/kilowatt-hour by 2050 from newly developed EGS resources and will play an immense role in reaching the goal of a net-zero emission economy by 2050.
- Hydrothermal Resources. The GTO Hydrothermal Resources subprogram is focused on improving geothermal exploration, subsurface characterization, and drilling to reduce overall geothermal deployment costs. Key areas of focus include developing and demonstrating new exploration tools and technologies needed to capture the resource potential of undiscovered, “hidden” resources; assessing early-stage RD&D applications in machine learning for power plant operations; and advancing research in subsurface RD&D. Hydrothermal resources are well positioned to contribute to the goal of realizing a carbon-free electric grid by 2035.
- Low Temperature and Coproduced Resources. The Low Temperature and Coproduced Resources subprogram conducts RD&D on technologies for geothermal resources below 300°F (150°C) as well as valuable critical materials extraction from geothermal brines and hybrid energy technologies that use geothermal in combination with other clean energy technologies. RD&D activities focus on improving the efficiency of low-temperature geothermal systems and expanding their utility through value-added commercial opportunities—facilitating near-term development of innovative geothermal technologies in geographically diverse areas of the country. The subprogram also researches the direct use of thermal resources for energy storage as well as process and space-heating applications, which have the potential to provide cost-effective, renewable thermal energy in large portions of the United States. Many activities under the Low Temperature and Coproduced Resources program focus on the added value of thermal energy, a major component of low-temperature geothermal. In addition to contributing toward the Administration’s goal to reduce the carbon footprint of the U.S. building stock by 80% by 2035, low-temperature geothermal energy resources can be used by a wide array of community customers, including urban centers, rural areas, and remote communities.
- Data, Modeling, and Analysis. GTO’s DMA program works to identify and address barriers to geothermal adoption in the United States and validates and assesses technical progress across the geothermal sector. DMA analyses help to inform the direction and prioritization of GTO’s RD&D. Work in DMA includes examining nontechnical barriers to geothermal deployment such as project permitting; modeling and validating the economics of geothermal technologies; collecting and disseminating data for stakeholder use; and assessing the environmental and economic effects of geothermal. DMA also helps develop and improve geothermal modeling tools and data sets, including supporting high-resolution geothermal resource assessments and the long-term maintenance, storage, and dissemination of critical data in the Geothermal Data Repository.
Figure 1 illustrates annual budget appropriations (dollars in millions) for GTO’s subprogram areas.
Figure 1. Geothermal Technologies Office Fiscal Year Appropriations (in $ million)