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Energy Cast Podcast: How to expand geothermal energy production

Geothermel Geyser
Geothermal resources have been developed in obvious locations like this spring in Yellowstone National Park. But DOE wants to expand generation to places that you can't see from the surface.

Energy Cast is a podcast featuring some of the top experts across all links in the energy industry chain, including renewables, generation and more! Jay Dauenhauer created the show and has been hosting Energy Cast for several years.

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I have been a huge geothermal supporter.  It’s renewable, theoretically everywhere, carbon free, and—most importantly—always available.

The Department of Energy’s Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO) thinks “business-as-usual” is not good enough for geothermal.  The sector grows about 2% a year and only produces 0.4% of the nation’s energy.

GTO Director Dr. Susan Hamm believes geothermal could be SO much bigger.  According to their new GeoVision publication, geothermal could expand 26x to 60 gigawatts by 2050.

“What we kept hearing is that there’s no shortage of geothermal resources, but there’s a real shortage of technology, innovation and momentum,” she says.

The two biggest challenges in her opinion are drilling costs, which can make up half a project’s cost, and awareness.  “My 7 ½-year-old son and I were walking down the street, and our neighbors have solar PV on their rooftop.  And my son said, ‘Look, they’ve got solar!  You can see the solar but no one can see geothermal.  Don’t you work in geothermal, mommy?'”

Another challenge is bringing in the Oil/Gas sector, which operates on a much shorter payback period.  However, she says both industries have traded technology for years.  In the 80s and 90s, GTO helped develop the polycrystalline diamond compact drill bit, which the Oil/Gas sector now uses and by some estimates, has saved the industry $15 billion.

In return, Dr. Hamm says the geothermal sector is working to adapt packer technology to underground wells.

The GTO has several internal initiatives to forward the technology.  Using a Play Fairway Analysis, they have used many data sets to pinpoint hidden geothermal resources.  This summer they drilled at five locations and found heat every time.

The office is also currently in a 10-year, $160 million program to develop Enhanced Geothermal Systems, which add water and permeability to hot zones without all three conditions.  They plan to start drilling at their site in Millford, Utah this fall. (This podcast originally aired in June 2019)


Energy Cast Podcast is hosted biweekly by Jay Dauenhauer.

Learn more about the podcast here.

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