WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recognized the nation’s first commercial enhanced geothermal system (EGS) project to supply electricity to the grid.

Ormat Technologies’ Desert Peak 2 EGS project, based in Churchill County, Nevada, has increased power output of its nearby operating geothermal field by nearly 38 percent, providing an additional 1.7 MW of power to the grid.

“Developing America’s vast renewable-energy resource sustainably is an important part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy to create jobs and strengthen U.S. global competitiveness,” said David Danielson, assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy. “The Churchill County geothermal project represents a critical investment to ensure America leads in this growing global industry, helping to create new manufacturing, construction, and operation jobs across the country while diversifying our energy portfolio and reducing pollution.”

Enhanced geothermal system projects capture power from intensely hot rocks, buried thousands of feet below the surface, that lack the permeability or fluid saturation found in naturally occurring geothermal systems. EGS technologies utilize directional drilling and pressurized water to enhance flow paths in the subsurface rock and create new reservoirs, capturing energy from resources that were once considered uneconomical or unrecoverable. With the support of research and development investments across the DOE’s renewable energy and oil and gas portfolios, American companies such as Ormat Technologies are now taking advantage of this untapped resource. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that EGS in the U.S. has the potential to enable development of 100-500 GW of geothermal resource capacity.

Leveraging a $5.4 million DOE investment, matched by $2.6 million in private-sector funding, the Ormat Desert Peak project is extending the life of previously unproductive geothermal wells.

Since the project’s start in 2008, the DOE has worked with Ormat, GeothermEx, the U.S. Geological Survey, and Lawrence Berkeley and Sandia National Laboratories to develop cost-effective and innovative production technologies that utilize protective environmental best practices and monitoring.

Publication date: 5/6/2013

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