Feds allocate $140M for geothermal energy lab in Beaver County

Steam field, part of geothermal power generation. Image shown for illustration purposes, date and location not specified | Photo courtesy by Gprentice/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The U.S. Department of Energy will give the University of Utah up to $140 million to support a research laboratory studying manmade geothermal energy.

The department announced the five-year funding plan Thursday for the facility in Beaver County.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry said in a news release that research at the site will help advance geothermal energy technologies and lead to more sources of American energy.

Geothermal power stations take heat from deep inside the earth and turn it into electricity. They are currently limited to areas with a precise combination of underground heat, water and rock openings.

The department says scientists at the laboratory will try to engineer systems that can be used in more locations across the country.

Led by the university’s Energy & Geoscience Institute, in partnership with the Governor’s Office of Energy Development, the Utah Geological Survey and other key agencies, the Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy, or FORGE, laboratory will be located near Milford.

“Utah is proud to provide national leadership in advancing energy innovation that will help drive affordable, baseload, renewable power to market,” Gov. Gary R. Herbert said. “This will put Utah on the map as a world leader for geothermal research as well as expand geothermal production here in rural Utah and throughout the world.”

The site will be dedicated to exploring enhanced geothermal systems, or manmade geothermal reservoirs created by techniques that have revolutionized the oil and gas industry through hydraulic fracturing.

During a successful pilot program, the Utah FORGE site exceeded criteria across rock type, heat gradient and porosity while operating on time and under budget.

“FORGE is a testament to Utah’s successful formula of strategic investment in innovation and research that pays off in enormous economic opportunities for Utah, especially rural Utah,” said Val Hale, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Twitter: @STGnews

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  • Brian June 15, 2018 at 8:49 am

    I’m conflicted on this. I’m a big fan of geothermal (it can be upwards of 500% efficient when looking at electricity input vs heating output), but a huge opponent of fracking (for any reason). I’m a big fan of investment and R&D, but a huge opponent of blind federal spending (how much oversight and penny-pinching will there really be on a $140M project like this with “free” federal money?).

    • Arcana June 15, 2018 at 9:58 am

      You know, I became really interested in fracking and did quite alot of research on it. It’s really not as bad as people think. It does, however, cause earthquakes in places…. which is concerning but as far as the chemicals leaking into the water supply (you know those videos of people lighting their water on fire) it really isn’t dangerous unless it’s a huge chemical spill. I’m really excited to see this project get started!

      • Brian June 15, 2018 at 11:15 am

        Yeah, there is this idea that either the videos are true and fracking is evil, OR the videos are bogus and fracking is totally safe and great.

        The reality (as far as I can tell) is that many of the videos are bogus (not because they aren’t real, but because locals know that was happening long before they started fracking there). But that doesn’t change the fact that fracking is doing huge damage underground that is irreversible and definitely increasing the number and severity of earthquakes. On top of that the chemicals they use are definitely bad and definitely not staying contained to just the wells themselves.

        Just like mountain-top removal mining I am 100% opposed to fracking. I’m a “drill almost anywhere” kind of guy, but mountain-top removal mining and fracking are both a whole different kind of evil. If they were going after the last drop of oil to use in WWIII to fight Hitlers great-grandson I may feel differently, but it isn’t. There are plenty of places to still get oil and natural gas without fracking, and to get coal and whatever else without mountain-top removal mining. It’s being done because its more profitable, but the “cost” is way, way too high. I’m a capitalist through-and-through, but that isn’t what this is. These are both pillaging, plain and simple.

        • comments June 15, 2018 at 4:52 pm

          capitalism without regulation is pillaging by nature, brian. You talk as though you are childishly naive. Maybe howard sierer (sp?) can come in and give us a lecture about “free markets”.

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