Deschutes County Site in Running for National Geothermal Research Lab

It’s one of several locations under consideration for the proposed Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy.

📅   Fri September 02, 2016 - West Edition #18


The land near Newberry Volcano is leased by Seattle-based geothermal firm AltaRock Energy Inc., which performs testing there.
The land near Newberry Volcano is leased by Seattle-based geothermal firm AltaRock Energy Inc., which performs testing there.

BEND, Ore. (AP) The U.S. Department of Energy is considering a site in Oregon's Deschutes County for a national geothermal research lab.

The land near Newberry Volcano is leased by Seattle-based geothermal firm AltaRock Energy Inc., which performs testing there. It's one of several locations under consideration for the proposed Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy.

“We feel pretty confident,” AltaRock Spokesman David Stowe told The Bulletin. But he acknowledged that “the competition is pretty stiff,” with sites in Idaho, Nevada, California and Utah still in the running.

Supporters of the Newberry site said the facility would bring temporary construction jobs, academic opportunities and an economic boost for local communities.

The DOE lab would serve as a research site for scientists and engineers to develop and test new technologies for harnessing geothermal energy. Researchers believe that tapping into up to 2 percent of the geothermal energy potential in the West could power the nation many times over.

Geothermal technology wouldn't contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and could operate consistently, unlike intermittent solar and wind-powered resources.

Three potential lab sites will advance to the next round and split about $30 million in Energy Department funding for planning and permitting before the DOE chooses a final site.

The department plans to spend at least five years implementing the lab. Stowe said researchers hope to perfect enhanced geothermal techniques and make them more efficient by that time.

AltaRock has already conducted enhanced geothermal testing at the Newberry site and partners say they have the only site on the side of an active volcano.

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