The U.S. Department of Energy dedicated $338 million in Recovery Act funds for new geothermal projects last year, and now the agency has added another $20 million to the pot. This week, DOE announced that the new funds will go to seven cutting edge geothermal technologies that create new green jobs in addition to reducing the demand for fossil fuels.
Geothermal in the U.S.A.
The new funding is a giant step forward for the U.S. We have some of the world’s richest geothermal resources and yet until now they have gone largely untapped, even as the urgency for alternative fuels gained steam. The Clinton administration concluded with the first comprehensive climate change report mandated by Congress, but it languished for another eight years as the Bush administration continued to focus attention on fossil fuels. In 2008 the cat was out of the bag, as the U.S. Geological Survey issued a nationwide assessment of geothermal resources identifying the potential for more than half a million megawatts.
New Cutting Edge Geothermal Technologies and New Green Jobs
The new $20 million in funding will go to a group of projects that tap a wide variety of geothermal resources, from large scale to micro-mini. For example, one project is to reclaim energy from the drilling brine from oil and gas fields, which currently is discharged as wastewater. Another project combines geothermal resources with a greenhouse and aquaculture operation designed for siting in small towns, and another focuses on portable mini-generators that can be hauled to remote locations. That all translates into new green jobs that will be created in a variety of settings, including small towns and remote areas that have been withering for lack of new career opportunities.
Geothermal Energy, the U.S. Military and Your Local IKEA
As part of the Recovery Act, the federal funds that havebeen pumped into geothermal are creating new green jobs across the country. This could result in some interesting turnarounds in the way our energy is supplied. The EPA has been reclaiming brownfields for alternative energy, and the U.S. military has been investing heavily in geothermal. Some of its facilities could go completely off-grid with plenty left over for civilian use. Meanwhile, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has been teaming up with retail powerhouse IKEA to spread the word about marrying geothermal energy with new big-box stores.
Image: Geyser by Ken Lund on flickr.com.
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.