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Geothermal Coproduction and Hybrid Systems

NREL's geothermal experts are evaluating the technical and economic benefits of combining geothermal systems with renewable and fossil energy technologies. This includes the benefits of expanding their utility through value-added commercial opportunities such as desalination and mineral recovery.

Photo of two rows of solar panels with a geothermal plant in the background.


NREL has expertise in:

  • Assessing and evaluating coproduction and hybrid system R&D projects
  • Evaluating the feasibility of novel geothermal applications.

NREL staff utilizes these skills to provide technical support to the U.S. Department of Energy's Geothermal Technologies Office, industry, and government.

Advanced Direct-Contact Condenser

When power production at The Geysers geothermal power complex began to falter, NREL stepped in, developing advanced condensing technology that dramatically boosted production efficiency—and making a major contribution to the effective use of geothermal power. The work resulted in an R&D 100 Award in 1999. The advanced direct-contact condenser provided a new way of condensing steam that enables geothermal electric plants to generate more electricity with greater efficiency and lower cost. The technology was successfully commercialized by SPX Heat Transfer with the help of NREL's Technology Transfer services and has since been deployed in power plants around the world. Read more: Advanced Condenser Boosts Geothermal Power Plant Output.

Geothermal and Solar

NREL is examining the technical and economic benefits of combining geothermal and solar thermal systems to improve plant efficiency and reduce cost. Geothermal and solar thermal systems share many features and can be designed for complementary integration. Researchers are studying the impacts of seasonally higher summer ambient temperatures on plant output; and thus, how to improve the economics of geothermal energy and reduce the levelized cost of energy fromnew geothermal systems.

Geothermal and Oil and Gas

NREL experts are working to find ways to effectively use renewable resources in combination with fossil energy. Geothermal and oil and gas hybrid systems make use of wells already drilled by oil and gas developers. Using coproduced geothermal fluids for power production from oil and gas wells can extend the economic life of these wells as well as deliver near-term energy savings and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Water Desalination

NREL's desalination work evaluates how renewable energy technologies can be harnessed to provide electricity and/or thermal energy to power desalination processes. Projects can vary from rural village-level to larger national-level in scale. NREL work seeks to optimize treatment technologies and energy requirements with different renewable technology types. Jointly, NREL and the Colorado School of Mines are examining the potential of using low-temperature geothermal resources for desalination.

Mineral Recovery

Geothermal fluids are potentially significant sources of valuable minerals and metals. Increasing worldwide demand for technology, and in particular, the increased consumer demand for clean energy technologies and electric vehicles, has led to NREL's research identifying these critical raw materials and their market dynamics. NREL is researching ways to make the separation of minerals from geothermal water a viable technology. Mineral recovery offers geothermal plant owners benefits, such as reduced scaling and additional revenue streams.

Photo of steam coming out of the ground with mountains in the background.

We can help evaluate the technical and economic benefits of geothermal coproduction and hybrid systems.

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