Geothermal energy production has proven to be a reliable renewable energy source with great potential to contribute to US (and global) energy grid stability and resiliency. Indeed, the US Department of Energy (DOE) has described geothermal energy as “a clean, efficient, and nearly inexhaustible domestic energy resource.” Nevertheless, geothermal developers often run into excessive up front development and drilling costs that frequently create unacceptable risks for potential energy investors. In an effort to tackle some of these ongoing roadblocks to geothermal development, the DOE has recently moved the conversation forward by–as the saying goes–putting its money where its mouth is.
Specifically, in late April, 2018, the DOE announced up to $14.5 million in new funding to advance geothermal energy development in the US. The funding opportunity announcement (FOA), aptly named The Efficient Drilling for Geothermal Energy (EDGE), focuses directly on improved “geothermal drilling in support of accelerating the research and development of innovative geothermal energy technologies.”
The FOA contains three Topic Areas: (1) Reducing Non-Drilling Time; (2) Advanced Drilling Technologies; and (3) Innovative Partnership Models. As highlighted by the DOE, “[t]he first two involve early stage research and development (R&D), while the third solicits projects that incentivize the risk-averse geothermal industry to adopt innovations earlier in the technology R&D cycle.” All Topic Areas and potential submissions present an opportunity for industry innovation that could have a big impact in making new geothermal development more economical and efficient, a hopeful solution to an ongoing problem that has seemed to slow this promising industry for years.
For interested applicants, the DOJ has provided extensive information, including an informational webinar on May 2, 2018, at 2:00 PM (EST), from which the presentation slides and the script have been posted. Time is of the essence for interested applicants, as the submission deadline is May 31, 2018 for Concept Papers and July 16, 2018 for Full Applications.