Geothermal Energy Resources on Public Lands

Since 2015, the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has contracted with NREL to advance its geothermal program and support the national goals and objectives of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Power plant in Steamboat Hills, Washoe County, Nevada.

NREL provides technical support to BLM's geothermal program with a focus on geothermal energy operations and analysis. Through this partnership, the BLM has access to world-class technical expertise in geothermal research and applies these resources to implement the agency's strategic priorities through 2025.

Partnership Objectives

NREL's technical assistance has focused on developing and deploying tools for streamlining program processes, databases, high-quality research, state-of-the-art approaches, and technical assistance in matters pertaining to geothermal operations on federal lands. Over the years, NREL has completed a variety of tasks that are addressed in two broad categories:

  • Tool development and deployment
  • Geothermal data analytics and research.

Tool Development and Deployment

Since the BLM is involved in most aspects of geothermal operations in the United States, effective BLM oversight activities on geothermal projects depends upon having useful tools and access to up-to-date information and technologies. NREL works with the BLM on developing and deploying tools, technologies, and practices that help to modernize BLM data systems while also enabling increased access to these systems to BLM staff and other stakeholders.

The goal for this task is to create meaningful and research-based tools that support BLM's oversight on geothermal operations across the country. NREL works closely with BLM's geothermal staff to identify needs and opportunities to create and deploy solutions for a variety of topics.

BLM and NREL staff in the field
NREL staff support BLM in locating old temperature gradient wells on public lands near active geothermal operations in Utah. Pictured: Nicole Taverna (NREL) and Robin Hansen (BLM). Photo by Jeffrey Cook

Activities under this task include:

  • Tool development, expansion, maintenance, and deployment
  • Development and curation of new data and content for existing BLM tools
  • Publication of training resources for BLM staff
  • Development of template documents to be used by BLM state office staff
  • Development of information and joint data retrieval system so that the public has electronic access to non-confidential information on federal leases and operations on those leases, including status of applications and requests.

Geothermal Data Analytics and Research

NREL provides research and analysis on critical BLM geothermal data and information, leveraging NREL's analytical tools and expertise. Research and analysis topics may include regulatory, leasing and policy analysis, geospatial and resource analysis, research on impacts of geothermal energy, and more. Use of this analysis supports the BLM in meeting program goals that enable effective oversight of geothermal operations.

Activities under this task include:

  • Development of white papers, memorandums, and technical reports
  • Publication of fact sheets and other communications materials on geothermal energy topics
  • Case studies or documentation of specific activities
  • Identification of best practices
  • Responses to requests for information, early analysis, or data needs.


Shallow Geothermal Potential of the Snake River Plain, GRC Transactions (2020)

Streamlining Energy Sprawl: Assessment of Geothermal Impacts on Public Lands, GRC Transactions (2020)

Environmental Concerns and Mitigation Associated with Geothermal Resource Confirmation Drilling Activities, GRC Transactions (2018)

Technical Requirements for Geothermal Resource Confirmation, GRC Transactions (2018)

Geothermal Induced Seismicity National Environmental Policy Act Review, GRC Transactions (2017)

Analysis of Geothermal Reservoir and Well Operational Conditions using Monthly Production Reports from Nevada and California. GRC Transactions (2017)

Geothermal Development and the Use of Categorical Exclusions Under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, GRC Transactions (2014)


Jeffrey Cook

Renewable Energy Policy and Market Analyst