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DOE to award $3M to lower cost of geothermal energy and boost US supply of rare earth elements
16 February 2014
The Energy Department will award up to $3 million for research and development to help grow US low-to-moderate-temperature geothermal resources and support a domestic supply of critical materials, such as lithium carbonate and rare earth elements. (DE-FOA-0001016)
While geothermal power is an attractive potential source for sustainable energy creation, the high heat temperature requirements (typically >150°C) of most geothermal capture systems constrain the geographic distribution and economic viability of geothermal production. This FOA intends to address this limitation by advancing a more non-traditional aspect of geothermal systems—strategic material or mineral recovery.
DOE is seeking to promote the advancement of thermal energy conversion processes capable of converting geothermal heat sources into power, in conjunction with the development or exploitation of technologies capable of capturing, concentrating, and/or purifying valuable materials contained within geothermal brines to economically extract resources that can provide additional revenue streams to geothermal operators. This targeted initiative of the Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO) focuses on strategic mineral extraction as a path to optimize the value stream of low-to-moderate temperature resources.
By partnering with geothermal and mineral industry stakeholders to develop additional revenue streams from brines, the economic viability of geothermal projects will increase while also allowing for increased geographic diversity of this base-load energy resource.
The FOA intends to bridge the gap between feasibility studies/applied R&D and commercial adoption of geothermal mining technologies by allowing cost-shared analysis of extraction technologies and potential geothermal mining and power production sites. The technical areas of interest are:
The Energy Department will fund up to ten feasibility studies and/or applied research and development projects to advance technologies that could lower the cost of geothermal energy production while diversifying and stabilizing the supply of rare earth elements.
The US Department of Energy also recently released a funding opportunity announcement for $3 million to spur geothermal energy development using play fairway analysis (DE-FOA-0000841) This technique identifies prospective geothermal resources in areas with no obvious surface expression by mapping the most favorable intersections of heat, permeability, and fluid. While commonly used in oil and gas exploration, play fairway analysis is not yet widely used in the geothermal industry. (Earlier post.)
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