Held back by the costs associated with harnessing it, geothermal power
provides only about 6% of California’s
total power. Scientists at the Department
of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National
Laboratory are investigating how to make
geothermal energy more accessible and
affordable through projects funded by the
California Energy Commission.
California’s unique geologic characteristics
are conducive to studying geothermal in
more applications than in other regions of
the U.S. Moreover, this abundance of viable
geothermal conditions provides a solution to
the state’s goal of generating half of its electricity from renewables by 2030.
The first project will improve visualizing
How California Plans to
Make Geothermal More
CALIFORNIA ENERGY COMMISSION FUNDS
TWO GEOTHERMAL RESEARCH PROJECTS
where and how fluids move underground,
and the second will develop flexible geothermal systems that integrate with other renewable energy sources.
By placing seismic recorders at the
Geysers, the world’s largest geothermal field,
researchers from Berkeley Lab will track
fluid flow in fractured geothermal reservoirs,
which could make the process of finding and
making wells more cost-effective.
“If they can increase the likelihood of get-
ting a productive well every time they drill, it
would be huge,” says Lawrence Hutchings, a
Berkeley Lab microearthquake imaging spe-
cialist who has worked in geothermal fields
worldwide. “More than 10% of California’s
total renewable energy capacity comes from
geothermal, so the potential impact of this
technology is exciting.”
The other Berkeley Lab project has a goal
of enabling conversion of geothermal pro-
duction to flexible-mode production, which
would allow geothermal to supplement other
renewable energy sources like wind and solar.
Researchers will adapt two already existing modeling tools for wellbore and geothermal reservoir integrity to integrate with geo-mechanical tools into an improved thermal-hydrological-mechanical-chemical (THMC)
model to address technical challenges.
“This will provide the necessary tools for
investigating all the challenges related to
flexible-mode production and predict short-and long-term impacts,” says Berkeley Lab
scientist Jonny Rutqvist. “The advantages to
California are many, including greater grid
reliability, increased safety and lower greenhouse gas emissions.” B
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GEOTHERMAL ENERGY has been relatively
stagnant in its share of California's renewable
energy compared to solar and wind power.