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.