U.S. DOE budget for 2010 biased towards EGS

Alexander Richter 14 May 2009

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released its budget draft for 2010, in which there is a sole emphasis on Enhanced/ Engineered Geothermal Systems (EGS), which has to be seen critical.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released this week its budget draft for 2010. In the budget, which can be found >here<, there is a sole emphasis on Enhanced/ Engineered Geothermal Systems (EGS).

While the increase of spending of DOE towards geothermal energy in general can be welcomed, the sole focus on EGS is actually bad news to developers and players in the “conventional” (hydrothermal) geothermal sector. This sector needs a lot of support particularly on decreasing certain elements of the project development, namely costs and risk elements. E.g. drilling risk, there are major efforts needed to decrease the drilling risk, as well as the cost of drilling for geothermal projects, this is an element which could benefit both the EGS and the conventional projects.

The focus on a technology that still has a steep technological development curve ahead is to be seen critical, as current and proven technology has a strong short-term potential, while EGS might take a much longer time to reach the level of installed capacity of current technologies at work.

So many players in the industry would strongly encourage the Department of Energy to put more emphasis on technologies that could support conventional geothermal, as well as EGS, or at least split R&D cost evenly. While the potential for EGS is admittedly huge, conventional geothermal can provide base load in a much shorter time frame and as we all know time is of essence in reaching renewable energy targets set both at state and federal level in the U.S.

The short description of DOE’s budget:

“The Geothermal program’s mission is to conduct RD&D to establish Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) as a major contributor to baseload electricity generation. The technologies developed by the program are expected to provide a new source of electricity that is clean, reliable and cost competitive.

The Geothermal Program will continue to focus on EGS, which are engineered reservoirs created to produce energy from geothermal resources deficient in natural water and/or permeability. These engineered reservoirs are created by drilling wells into hot rock, fracturing the rock between the wells, and circulating a fluid through the fractured rock to extract the heat.

Complementary activities include a web-based, public database; international collaborative activities; investigations of low temperature geothermal opportunities; and support for geothermal workforce development.”

Source: GEA, DOE budget for 2010