The Department of Energy will offer $74 million to geothermal pilot projects that tap into heat several miles underground, in a bid to unlock massive amounts of renewable electricity.
The funding, announced last week, will go to up to seven pilot projects. Funding recipients will test whether a new kind of geothermal technology called EGS—enhanced geothermal systems—could be an economic way to transform heat almost anywhere on the planet into electricity.
It is part of the Biden administration's efforts to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and transition to a zero-carbon grid by 2035. Geothermal energy has already been an effective way of generating power for decades, but it is currently limited to a handful of regions with active volcanoes, hot springs and geysers.
DOE's funding is aimed at accessing heat buried deep inside the planet, which is in theory available everywhere. While current geothermal plants use hot water from geysers to operate turbines, ESG effectively builds human-made geysers. The method generates carbon-free power by injecting a flow of cold, high-pressured water into rock, where it is heated up and then travels through pipes back above ground.