The US Department of Energy is offering up to $3 million dollars in research and development funding to groups that will help grow low-to-moderate-temperature geothermal resources while working out economic means of extracting rare earth elements from the geothermal brines generated by the power systems.
While geothermal energy systems are a quite attractive choice for a number of reasons all on their own, the simultaneous extraction of economically important rare earth elements should help to sweeten the deal for potential investors — that’s the thinking behind the DOE’s offering anyways.
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While geothermal power is an attractive potential source for sustainable energy creation, the high heat temperature requirements (typically >150°C) of most geothermal capture systems constrain the geographic distribution and economic viability of geothermal production. This FOA intends to address this limitation by advancing a more non-traditional aspect of geothermal systems—strategic material or mineral recovery.
DOE is seeking to promote the advancement of thermal energy conversion processes capable of converting geothermal heat sources into power, in conjunction with the development or exploitation of technologies capable of capturing, concentrating, and/or purifying valuable materials contained within geothermal brines to economically extract resources that can provide additional revenue streams to geothermal operators. This targeted initiative of the Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO) focuses on strategic mineral extraction as a path to optimize the value stream of low-to-moderate temperature resources.
The DOE thinks that this partnering of the geothermal and mineral industries should help to improve the economic viability of potential geothermal projects here in the US — helping to increase the number of regions making use of this base-load energy source.
In total, the DOE is aiming to fund up to ten feasibility studies and/or applied research and development projects.