Geothermal Impact Analysis Geothermal Project

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Last modified on July 22, 2011.

Project Title Geothermal Impact Analysis
Project Type / Topic 1 Recovery Act: Enhanced Geothermal Systems Component Research and Development/Analysis
Project Type / Topic 2 Geothermal Analysis
Project Description To be considered as a path forward, geothermal energy must be accepted as renewable and sustainable. A review of some of the available comparisons of geothermal energy to other alternatives shows that often old data is being used, there are misunderstandings of geothermal energy, or wrong conclusions are being drawn. For example, some sources have claimed that geothermal energy is not a renewable energy resource and that geothermal energy can not be produced sustainably, because of misconstrued analogies to other extractive industries. This work will clarify the concepts of geothermal renewability and sustainability and energy return on investment (EROI).

For a geothermal system, EROI is determined by the energy delivered to the consumer compared to the energy consumed to build, operate, and decommission the facility. Whereas, the concepts of renewability and sustainability involve time. The UN World Commission on Environment and Development defined sustainable development as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Thus sustainability, rather than implying a static process for an infinite time, implies a balance between the present and the future.

State New Mexico
Objectives Clarify the concepts of geothermal renewability, sustainability, and EROI through the provision of best available data on hydrothermal and enhanced geothermal systems (EGS).
Awardees (Company / Institution) Arthur J. Mansure

Funding Opportunity Announcement DE-FOA-0000075
DOE Funding Level (total award amount) $50,000.00
Awardee Cost Share $12,500.00
Total Project Cost $62,500.00

Principal Investigator(s) Arthur J. Mansure

Targets / Milestones An explicit and proper analysis of EROI is especially important for geothermal energy. A geothermal power plant involves four energy streams: a) the heat extracted from the reservoir, i.e. the earth, b) the heat rejected to the atmosphere, c) the energy to construct, operate, and decommission the power plant, and d) the electricity delivered to the customer. The heat flowing from the reservoir and rejected to the atmosphere are significant in determining the efficiency of the system, but are not factors in an EROI energy analysis. For a geothermal system, EROI is determined by the energy delivered to the consumer compared to the energy consumed to build, operate, and decommission the facility. Thus EROI compares high value input energy, the diesel fuel used to run the drill rig but which could be used for transportation, to another high value energy, electricity.

Location of Project Albuquerque, NM

Impacts Determine and document sustainability of geothermal development. Art Mansure is recognized by the Sandia National Lab Geothermal Technologies Program Manager as a top expert in determining geothermal reservoir sustainability from a life cycle perspective. The program is regularly asked about the broader impacts of EGS development. Funding would enable this retired SNL researcher to work with other life cycle analysts currently funded to provide the necessary geothermal expertise.
Funding Source American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009
References EERE Geothermal Technologies Programs[1]


  1. EERE Geothermal Technologies Programs