Harnessing the Earth’s heat: US DOE and Google step up geothermal investments

image is Geothermal

Geothermal energy, recognised for its potential to provide firm, flexible, renewable power, could benefit over 65 million homes across the United States.

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO) unveiled on Wednesday a funding opportunity of up to $7 million to advance regional grid models assessing the integration of clean, firm geothermal power into the national electricity grid.

This initiative aims to support an equitable energy transition through decarbonisation and evaluate the impact of geothermal energy at various deployment levels.

Geothermal energy, recognised for its potential to provide firm, flexible, renewable power, could benefit over 65 million homes across the United States. The GTO’s Geothermal Resources’ Value in Implementing Decarbonisation (GRID) funding opportunity emphasises creating new valuation metrics to capture the broad economic and reliability benefits of geothermal power.

Additionally, it includes research on ensuring an equitable transition through geothermal deployment and the development of visual tools to communicate research findings effectively.

Focus areas and goals

The GTO plans to fund regional grid modelling studies in specific power pools, joint utilities groups, utility service territories, or Tribal jurisdictions across the contiguous United States, Alaska, Hawai'i, and U.S. territories.

The aim is to quantify geothermal power's role in an equitable, decarbonised grid and address grid stability challenges. These detailed studies will explore how geothermal power can support and stabilise the grid as it incorporates higher shares of variable renewable energy sources.

Google's geothermal energy deal with NV Energy

In a related development, Google entered an agreement with Berkshire Hathaway's electric utility NV Energy to power its Nevada data centres with advanced geothermal electricity, the company announced today.

This deal, pending approval from state utility regulators, will increase the amount of geothermal electricity for Google’s operations from 3.5 megawatts to 115 megawatts over six years.

The agreement aligns with Google’s objective to operate entirely on clean energy by 2030. The US tech giant has already announced plans to invest at least $4 billion in building or expanding data centres in Indiana, Missouri, and Virginia this year.

As of the latest environmental report, Google’s global operations were powered by 64% carbon-free energy, including wind and solar.

To facilitate this deal, NV Energy executed a power purchase agreement with advanced geothermal developer Fervo Energy, currently supplying Google with 3.5 megawatts of power since entering a pilot program in 2021.

With solar and wind energy depending on weather conditions, companies are increasingly considering firm clean capacities like geothermal to meet their renewable energy needs.

Notably, geothermal energy, which utilises underground heat to produce electricity, accounts for about 10% of Nevada’s total electricity generation, the highest in the US.

This combined effort between the DOE and private companies like Google signifies a significant step towards a more sustainable, dependable, and equitable energy future.


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