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Image (cropped): Enhanced geothermal energy systems, courtesy of US Department of Energy.

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U.S. Department of Energy Geothermal Competitions Heat Up: New Lithium Extraction Prize & Teams Advance in Manufacturing Prize

The Department of Energy (DOE) announced the launch of the American-Made Geothermal Lithium Extraction Prize. The prize was launched during today’s NextGen Geo, a live virtual event uniting geothermal industry professionals, geosciences students, and clean energy entrepreneurs for a series of panel discussions on hot topics related to geothermal and renewable energy.

The Geothermal Lithium Extraction Prize is designed to advance technologies that improve the economics and lessen environmental impacts of lithium mining from geothermal brines. Competitors must be affiliated with a U.S. academic institution and will participate in three escalating challenges for an opportunity to win a portion of a $4 million cash prize pool. Phase 1 is currently open, with submissions due by Friday, July 2, 2021. In the coming weeks, DOE’s Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO) will post recorded interviews to the prize website that will feature Industry Advisory Panel members discussing various extraction challenges in the Salton Sea.

“This next phase of the Geothermal Prize will tap into the tremendous potential of our scientific, manufacturing, entrepreneurial, and innovation communities to safely and sustainably discover and advance new direct lithium extraction technologies,” said Kelly Speakes-Backman, Acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, “Lithium is a critical material used in transportation batteries, grid storage batteries, and other clean energy technologies. Developing this domestic supply chain for lithium will support our shift to a fully clean grid by 2035, expand our workforce, and help increase our energy independence.”

The prize is one of several DOE competitions helping to bolster workforce development within the American geothermal industry. Workforce development is a key component of achieving the potential for a 26-fold increase in U.S. geothermal electricity generation by 2050, as outlined in the Department’s 2019 GeoVision study.

Teams Chosen to Dig Deeper into Advanced Manufacturing and Direct-Use Cases

As part of NextGen Geo, DOE also announced ten semifinalists for the American-Made Geothermal Manufacturing Prize, a competition designed to spur innovation and address manufacturing challenges fundamental to operating in harsh geothermal environments. The Geothermal Manufacturing Prize, launched in 2020, supports the American geothermal industry in reaching the GeoVision target of 60 gigawatts-electric (GWe) of geothermal capacity by 2050 through technical advances and workforce development.

The Geothermal Manufacturing Prize semifinalists include the following teams:


  • The Bit Guys (Morgantown, WV)
  • Ozark Integrated Circuits (Fayetteville, AR)
  • AC (Cambridge, MA)

Zonal Isolation

  • Baker Hughes (Houston, TX)
  • Welltec (Katy, TX)
  • Downhole Emerging Technologies (Houston, TX)
  • Schlumberger-Huilin Tu (Houston, TX)

Logging and Production

  • PLUGS (Morgantown, WV)
  • Ultra-High Temperature Logging Tool (Houston, TX)
  • Multiscale Systems (Worcester, MA)

DOE also announced a roster of student teams advancing to the final phase of the Geothermal Collegiate Competition, which engages multidisciplinary teams to design direct-use concepts leveraging geothermal energy to heat and cool buildings, campuses, districts, or entire communities.  The initial round drew high-caliber and innovative direct use proposals ranging from heating and cooling systems on campuses, golf courses, police stations, elementary schools, farms, libraries, hospitals, and Indian Reservations.  Finalists include teams from:

  • The Colorado School of Mines,
  • Cornell University,
  • Cypress College,
  • Liberty University,
  • Montana State University,
  • Northern Virginia Community College,
  • SUNY Broome,
  • SUNY Binghamton,
  • Temple University,
  • the University of California–Berkeley,
  • Rutgers University,
  • the University of Colorado–Boulder,
  • the University of North Dakota,
  • the University of Notre Dame,
  • the University of Oklahoma,
  • Western Kentucky University.

DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Geothermal Technologies Office oversees these investments supporting the Administration’s goal to address the climate emergency. They will help ensure that the United States builds a 100% clean-energy economy and reaches net-zero emissions by 2050.

Courtesy of DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

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