Nevada Geothermal System Boosts Output with Directional Drilling

April 15, 2013 By Linda Hardesty

The US Department of Energy recognized the nation’s first commercial enhanced geothermal system project to supply electricity to the grid.

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

Enhanced geothermal system (EGS) 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.

The US Geological Survey estimates that EGS in the United States has the potential to enable development of 100 to 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 Energy Department has worked with Ormat, GeothermEx, the US Geological Survey, and Lawrence Berkeley and Sandia National Laboratories. The Desert Peak project follows achievements at two other Energy Department-supported projects focused on demonstrating the commercial viability of EGS: The Calpine demonstration project at The Geysers in Middletown, Calif., and the AltaRock demonstration project at the Newberry Volcano near Bend, Ore.

At the world’s largest series of geothermal plants, The Geysers in California, the US Department of Energy invested $6 million in EGS technology, which resulted in a 5 MW equivalent of geothermal steam at this Calpine-operated project.

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