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Berkeley Lab FORGEs Ahead on Geothermal

Sources: Mack Kennedy, Susan Hubbard, Dan Hawkes

The DOE Geothermal Technology Office announced earlier this week (April 27, 2015) that it has selected five candidate sites for the first part of the multiphase Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE) effort. This field observatory, specifically for cutting-edge research on enhanced geothermal systems (EGS), could unlock access to a domestic, geographically diverse, and carbon-free source of clean energy, with the potential to supply power to up to 100 million homes in the United States.

Mack Kennedy

Berkeley Lab has been selected to move forward on two of the five candidate sites— which were proposed in partnership with Sandia National Lab, the U.S. Geological Survey, University of Nevada at Reno, GeothermEx, the U.S. Navy, Ormat Technologies Inc., and Terra-Gen Power, Inc. Mack Kennedy, Earth Sciences Division's Geothermal Systems Program Lead, will be the lead point of contact for the Berkeley Lab aspect of FORGE.

The FORGE initiative consists of three phases. The first two phases will—over the next two years—focus on final selection of the site and operations team, as well as preparing the selected site for full operation in Phase 3. 

Phase 1 (1 year duration) of the FORGE program is focused on characterization and suitability of the respective proposed sites as a subsurface research facility for generating engineered geothermal systems.  As a leader in subsurface geoscience, particularly with respect to characterization, fracture generation and sustainability, and multiphase fluid flow in heterogeneous media, Berkeley Lab will play a pivotal role in evaluating the suitability of the team's two proposed sites. In Phase 2 (1–2 years duration) of the program, if one or both of the team's proposed sites were selected, the site(s) will be fully instrumented for monitoring subsurface activities, such as fracture generation, and the proposed FORGE site(s) will be brought to full readiness for testing and further characterization. 

If one of the team's proposed sites were to be selected for Phase 3 (5 years duration), full implementation of FORGE—including opening the site for R&D projects, solicitations of R&D projects, selecting, testing, and evaluating new and innovative tools and supporting science—will be managed by the team.

FORGE is intended to be a dedicated scientific-community facility that will advance subsurface energy science, with a particular focus on geothermal technologies. At this site, scientists and engineers will be able to develop, test, and accelerate breakthroughs in EGS technologies and techniques. It would be of particular importance to California and Nevada, already the two largest geothermal producers in the nation and likely to advance further in EGS with the advent of FORGE.

Kennedy noted that ultimately many ESD scientists are likely to be involved in the FORGE project over the next few years. To date, in preparing the Phase 1 proposal, Ernie Majer, Pat Dobson, and Eric Sonnenthal have already made significant contributions.

To read about the FORGE announcement, go here:

Keep up to date with all the news available from the FORGE project website by clicking here ».