Friday, May 13, 2016

USA: GRC Member On the Search for Geothermal Energy Resources

NREL Helping the Bureau of Land Management Dive Further into Hot Water (NREL)

NREL researcher Kathryn Young visits an IPT Energy Services oil and gas well site near Denver. NREL will be providing technical assistance to the BLM for its geothermal program, adapting knowledge, materials, and lessons learned from the agency’s oil and gas programs. Photo by Dennis Schroeder

Geothermal energy is there for the taking, provided you know where to look and want to invest the time and money to drill into the earth. The process can be complicated, but work being undertaken at the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) for the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will make it less so.

That's important, because untapped geothermal energy stands ready to fill a need as states and the federal government push to generate more electricity from renewable sources. But adding geothermal-generated electricity to the grid can take years.

The BLM is tasked with the responsibility of deciding appropriate uses for 245 million acres of public lands, such as whether to allow the operation of geothermal plants. All states possess geothermal energy, but a dozen have been identified as the best potential sources for traditional hydrothermal power.

But where, under all that real estate, are the best places to drill?

"With solar and wind resources, it's easier to see if it's available," said Katherine Young, a geothermal energy engineer who works at NREL in the Technology Systems and Sustainability Analysis Group in the Strategic Energy Analysis Center. "It's easy to measure when the sun's shining and when the wind's blowing. With geothermal you have to spend a lot of money to confirm that resource is there."