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The NREL geothermal team is involved in various projects to help accelerate the development and deployment of clean, renewable geothermal technologies, including low-temperature resources; strategic planning, analysis, and modeling;and technical monitoring.

Low-Temperature Resources

NREL supports the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Geothermal Technologies Program (GTP) through various collaborations that evaluate the levelized cost of electricity and operational data for low-temperature geothermal resources. In August 2010, NREL and the Rocky Mountain Oilfield Testing Center (RMOTC) in Casper, Wyoming, signed a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate on the testing and development of low-temperature technologies.

NREL's team is tracking operational data from two 280 kilowatt Organic Rankine Cycle units at RMOTC's Naval Petroleum Reserve No. 3 (Teapot Dome Oil Field) site to identify power output improvements through the year and power output improvements in warm climates. The data will help NREL and RMOTC understand the efficiencies, barriers, and operating issues of current technology and will help GTP reach the goal of developing and demonstrating low-temperature technologies to reduce costs to $0.08 per kilowatt hour by 2016.

NREL has modeled and evaluated commercially available hybrid cooling systems that can be retrofitted to one of the RMOTC units to mitigate the decrease in net power output. During FY12 NREL will be relocating the two geothermal units at RMTOC to commercial sites to demonstrate the technology in a commercial operating environment.

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Strategic Planning, Analysis, and Modeling

NREL's geothermal analysis team provides support to GTP by conducting integrated analysis on geothermal resources, including market and policy analysis, modeling tools, risk assessments, supply curve development, and transmission analysis. In addition to the projects listed below, the geothermal analysis team is also working on a web-ready permitting checklist for geothermal developers, geothermal power plant case studies, and technical reports on water use, institutional barriers, and more.

Market and Policy Analysis

NREL investigates, researches, and analyzes the latest information available to help reduce confusion and provide credible, objective answers to decision makers, such as utility regulators, policymakers, and regional developers interested in investments and policies that support new, geothermal projects.

The NREL geothermal team is also conducting feed-in tariff analysis and adding a geothermal aspect to current renewable energy finance tracking initiatives to identify trends, barriers, and preferences in geothermal project financing.


The NREL team develops and supports various geothermal analysis modeling tools. Currently, the team is working to broaden the development of geothermal applications in Web-based interactive tools by incorporating more geothermal resource data, such as temperature at depths and low-temperature modeling. The team plans to modify tools to estimate the costs of development for a given location and visualize other factors at a site that can affect geothermal development potential, such as land ownership, transmission line proximity, and water resources.

The NREL team is also working to develop a geothermal power generation component to the Jobs and Economic Development Model (JEDI) to estimate job development at the state level and nationwide. These results will help researchers, policy makers, investors, developers, energy advocates, and government officials understand the potential job creation benefits and economic impacts associated with geothermal power projects. 

Project Assessment

The NREL staff has extensive experience in project management in geologic field studies, regional sedimentary basin exploration, prospect generation, reservoir characterization and simulation, drilling and completion operations, and environmental assessment and permitting.

The staff employs these skills to encourage the development, validation, and deployment of geothermal technologies by providing technical support to the U.S. Department of Energy's Geothermal Technologies Program in assessment and evaluation of research and development projects, as well as assisting private sector and government clients in evaluating the feasibility of innovative new geothermal applications.

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