Lesser Known Than Some of Its Renewable Energy Cousins, Geothermal Energy Is Now on the Rise Thanks to Its Ability To Provide 24/7 Power, Heat, Cooling, Critical Minerals, and More.
Geothermal energy—literally “heat from the Earth”—may be hard to see, but thanks to increasing public interest and outreach it is not hidden anymore.
While geothermal power plants have delivered renewable power for more than 100 years, recent research and advancements have shown that geothermal is more than a 24/7 clean power source.
“Geothermal is a triple resource: an energy source for heating, cooling, and power; a storage resource; and a mineral resource,” said Amanda Kolker, geothermal laboratory program manager at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). “The Earth itself has the potential to address a variety of hurdles in the transition to a clean energy future.”
With the ability to provide electricity, heating, cooling, and storage—plus the potential to access critical minerals, capture and sequester carbon, produce green hydrogen, and more—the natural heat of the Earth is a powerhouse ready to be tapped. And investors and leaders across both the public and private sectors are moving full steam ahead with geothermal.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis recently launched “The Heat Beneath Our Feet” initiative to encourage renewable geothermal energy generation in Colorado and other western states. As part of this Western Governors’ Association initiative, NREL provided technical assistance for the project and hosted an event on Feb. 24, 2023, showcasing the laboratory’s geothermal research portfolio to more than 50 leaders in attendance.
NREL’s partnership with Con Edison to study transitioning New York City’s steam system, which powers the Empire State Building and is currently run on natural gas, to geothermal is evidence of the increased interest in direct use.NREL researchers are addressing geotechnical, economic, and logistical issues to understand the opportunities and challenges of using geothermal energy for generating steam in New York City. If converted to only 10% geothermal, this system would be the largest geothermal district heating system in the United States.