Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

The Energy Department has put up $31 million for FORGE, a cutting edge geothermal demo project that could tap into 100 gigawatts of US geothermal power.

Clean Power

100 GW Of US Geothermal Power Will Push US Past Gas

The Energy Department has put up $31 million for FORGE, a cutting edge geothermal demo project that could tap into 100 gigawatts of US geothermal power.

Natural gas has been having a field day in the US energy profile for the past dozen years or so, but it looks like the sleeping giant of US geothermal power is being nudged out of its stupor. Yesterday, the Energy Department announced that it is plunking down $31 million to rev up a cutting edge geothermal demo project that could enable the US to tap into an estimated 100 gigawatts of geothermal power.

The new geothermal project, called FORGE for Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy, is just one of a package of clean energy investments that President Obama has been rolling out in recent days.

US geothermal FORGE project

“Virtual reservoir,” US geothermal FORGE project (cropped) courtesy of US DOE.

US Geothermal vs. Natural Gas

Earlier this week the US Energy Information Agency released a new futurecast in which the base scenario calls for almost 75% of all new generating capacity to be from gas-fired power plants. In consideration of the new geothermal announcement, which comes on top of stunning gains in wind and solar power, it looks like EIA has a bit of revising to do.

Here’s the Energy Department enthusing over FORGE:

The FORGE initiative is a first-of-its-kind effort to accelerate development of this innovative geothermal technology that could help power our low carbon future…This field observatory will facilitate the development of rigorous and reproducible approaches that could drive down the cost of geothermal energy and further diversify our nation’s energy portfolio.

Just one caveat. When you check out the details, the words “fluid” and “underground” come to mind, which conjures up fracking, so we’re going to temper our enthusiasm for now.

The FORGE project basically involves finding ways to “effectively stimulate large fracture networks” (so yeah, kind of like fracking). The idea is to tap into areas underground where the rocks are hot, but the heat doesn’t have a natural way up to the surface.

In industryspeak that’s called an Enhanced Geothermal System. Ideally, an ESG would create pathways that enable fluid to circulate efficiently through rock, and return to the surface piping hot.

That means drilling a well into the target area, and then injecting water at high pressure and/or heat to split the rock. You keep doing that until you have a “fracture network” large enough to sustain a reservoir in terms of heat and flow rate.

All that’s left to do is drill a production well into the reservoir. The returning water should be hot enough to transition to steam at the surface. Alternatively, it could be used to heat another fluid to produce vapor. Steam or vapor, there’s your energy for running a turbine.

Here’s a nifty infographic from the Energy Department:

FORGE US geothermal infographic

FORGE US geothermal infographic courtesy of US DOE.

That infographic looks awfully clean but as described above the process of building an ESG is pretty messy.


However, it’s not likely that a boom in ESG construction would lead to the kind of widespread environmental impacts that have characterized the natural gas industry in states with weak regulations for fracking, including the disposal of fracking wastewater.

We’re thinking that’s the case partly because unlike the wildcatting, all-over-the-place nature of the natural gas (and oil) fracking boom, ESG lends itself to the kind of large scale, centralized installations that could fall under federal jurisdiction.

Follow me on Twitter and Google+.

Appreciate CleanTechnica’s originality? Consider becoming a CleanTechnica Member, Supporter, Technician, or Ambassador — or a patron on Patreon.

Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Written By

Tina 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. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.


#1 most loved electric vehicle, solar energy, and battery news & analysis site in the world.


Support our work today!


Power CleanTechnica: $3/Month

Tesla News Solar News EV News Data Reports


EV Sales Charts, Graphs, & Stats


Our Electric Car Driver Report

30 Electric Car Benefits

Tesla Model 3 Video

Renewable Energy 101 In Depth

solar power facts

Tesla News

EV Reviews

Home Efficiency

You May Also Like

Clean Power

By Jonathan Jackson  At the start of 2021, the first six ASX-listed companies began improving their Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) credentials and reporting...

Climate Change

Scientists are raising alarm over the lack of publicly-verifiable quality of privately-generated corporate climate risk assessments, Politico Pro reports. As firms respond to shareholders’...

Clean Power

Just in time to avert a climate catastrophe, US geothermal energy industry shakes self out of slumber with an assist from oil and gas...

Green Economy

Climate risks may be significant even if the directors do not think they are. Tools are needed to make boards aware of the threat.

Copyright © 2021 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.