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Company receives Pentagon contract to investigate potential site for ‘dry rock’ geothermal power plant: ‘Enabling us to realize a goal of deploying geothermal energy everywhere’

In World
May 20, 2024

The home of America’s Tank Division is about to become a part of an underground energy mission.

That’s because Houston’s Sage Geosystems has been awarded a government contract to analyze the potential for a mostly subterranean power storage system at El Paso’s Fort Bliss, according to Worth Magazine. If completed, the setup would make it possible for intermittent, renewable power from the sun and wind to be stored and discharged for 12 hours or more.

It’s part of an ambitious sustainability plan from the Army that includes a fleet of hybrid tactical vehicles, carbon-pollution-free electricity at installations, and placing a microgrid on every base, with periodic goals between 2030-50.

Sage, making a name for itself with a “dry-rock” geothermal storage technique, has been tabbed to help with the electricity objective. The method involves drilling thousands of feet into the ground, limiting the surface area needed for the operation. Fractures are opened in the ground, serving as reservoirs to store water, which is pumped downward when there is a glut of — preferably renewable — electricity.

The underground water is essentially a battery, storing the energy. When the power is needed, a valve is opened and subsurface pressure propels the water upward, where it turns a turbine to make electricity. Utilizing underground pressure makes the concept applicable in more places, the company reports.

Sage has a couple of versions of the concept. One involves deeper bore holes that also leverage the Earth’s heat in the process. Both methods are claimed to be highly efficient and cleaner than lithium battery alternatives since they don’t require expensive and hard-to-gather metals, all per a Sage video clip.

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Worth reports that Sage is perfecting an even more efficient process to use supercritical CO2 to run the turbines. It’s a near-solid, pressurized gas that can be heated with underground air, as well.

The innovations capitalize on tech and drilling concepts from the fossil industry, sometimes even utilizing abandoned sites.

“Our understanding of geology and drilling techniques are enabling us to realize a goal of deploying geothermal energy everywhere,” Sage CEO Cindy Taff said to Worth.

At Fort Bliss, the vision is for there to be 18 wells providing steady power that would be enough for 10,000 homes. Sage is also working on a prototype at the Air Force’s Ellington Field Joint Reverse Base, also in Texas. It’s the next stage, following successful studies there.

Subsurface heat is drawing interest from a slew of energy developers. Massachusetts’ Quaise Energy plans to drill up to 12 miles into the Earth to leverage more than 900-degree Fahrenheit temperatures.

Billed as a “million-year energy source,” geothermal could completely transform our energy system. Imagine communities (and one already exists) where each home has clean energy from near-limitless underground heat, which would benefit humans by reducing electric bills and air pollution, contributing to a safer, cleaner, and more affordable future.

Soon, the 1st Armored Division may be tapping geothermal power at Fort Bliss.

“We are the solution. We are ready,” Sage states on its website.

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