Oregon Geothermal on the Rise
Advances in renewable energy are just around the corner in Central Oregon. South of Bend, Oregon, the Newberry Volcano rises about 4,000 feet above the city (7,989 above sea level). Newberry is the largest volcano in the Cascades, and its last eruption was just 1,300 years ago. This sleeping giant – a caldera like Crater Lake – is now the star of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, where Oregonians and tourists can camp and hike along its two lakes, the impressive lava flows, or many volcanic cones and vents (there are more than 400!).
But just under the earth’s crust, the area around Newberry offers much more – and the NEWGEN team of experts are ready to tap into the volcano’s potential renewable geothermal energy.
NEWGEN – Newberry Geothermal Energy – is a team of partners who want to strengthen geothermal technology using the natural energy under the western flank of the Newberry Volcano. The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Oregon State University, AltaRock Energy, Inc., GE Global Research, and Statoil are working together to develop and test engineered geothermal systems (EGS) at Newberry.
EGS technology can be used at a site where there is geothermal heat, but no naturally occurring water to produce steam. Prior to the NEWGEN project, AltaRock Energy managed the Newberry EGS Demonstration Project at the site and successfully created an EGS reservoir in the hot rock about 10,000 feet underground.
NEWGEN’s innovative work is part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s search to locate a Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE). FORGE will be a national field laboratory, where experts can develop and test geothermal energy and technologies.
NEWGEN is one of five finalists that have completed the first phase of FORGE, and the team presented its Phase I research to U.S. DOE officials in Washington, D.C. on June 7. The State of Oregon is proud to support the NEWGEN project, and Governor Kate Brown submitted a letter of support to the U.S. DOE. Officials will now narrow the field to just a few sites for phase two of FORGE, which is expected to last about 18 months. At the end of Phase II, the U.S. DOE will select the final location for the FORGE laboratory, which will be implemented at the field site during Phase III.
In May, AltaRock Geologist Kyla Grasso (and her dog, Abbie) gave Oregon Department of Energy staffers a tour of the NEWGEN site. “NEWGEN is the only proposed FORGE location on a volcano,” said Kyla. Since the site is on a volcano, hot rock is closer to the surface, making it easier to drill wells. “We have three well pads and two drilled wells ready to go. If the U.S. DOE chooses us, research teams can hit the ground running.”
A FORGE lab at NEWGEN could also support the local economy in nearby communities like Bend, Sunriver, and LaPine. “Whenever possible, we hire work crews locally,” shared Kyla. Some AltaRock staff call Bend home, and they appreciate how residents have been engaged in NEWGEN’s work.
“What could be better than green energy in my own backyard?” added Kyla.
NEWGEN hopes to hear that they’ve moved on to FORGE’s Phase II later this summer.