Geothermal energy is the naturally occurring heat stored in rocks below the Earth's surface. This thermal energy can be found from shallow ground to several miles below the surface.
In an enhanced geothermal system, also known as EGS, water is pumped into hot underground rock to produce steam and hot water that can be extracted and used to drive a power plant and generate electricity before it is returned to the reservoir in a closed-loop process.
Tapping just 1 to 2 percent of the technically recoverable geothermal energy potential in the western United States could generate enough electricity to meet the nation's power needs many times over.
Geothermal energy offers renewable baseload power generation that isn't affected by variable wind or sunlight. It has a small environmental footprint, and it emits no greenhouse gases.
NEWGEN is the Newberry Geothermal Energy consortium, a collaboration between Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Oregon State University, AltaRock Energy, and StatOil. The NEWGEN consortium aims to bring cutting-edge geothermal research and development activities to Central Oregon and beyond.
The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is recognized by the U.S. Department of Energy lab for its core capability in subsurface science. AltaRock Energy has conducted field research at Newberry Volcano since 2010, leading to the successful creation of an EGS reservoir in 2014. Oregon State University has one of the nation's leading geosciences programs, faculty expertise and extensive facilities for research and development. Statoil is an international energy company with more than 40 years of experience from oil and gas production on the Norwegian continental shelf.
The geologic and geophysical conditions at the Newberry site have been highly characterized and analyzed by scientists and engineers. NEWGEN has performed background environmental monitoring, developed and implemented environmental monitoring plans and worked with local, state and federal regulators to ensure EGS stimulation can be conducted safely.
NEWGEN will use groundwater pumped from shallow wells, and all additives to the base water will be fully disclosed to regulators and the public. Stimulating fractures creates small seismic events, but this microseismicity is below the human-detectable level and harmless. A seismicity mitigation plan will be in place and monitored continuously to ensure safe operations.