Monday, August 17, 2015

Alaskan power company joins INL-based geothermal consortium

The Idaho National Laboratory announced today that Chena Power, an Alaska-based company, has officially joined the Snake River Geothermal Consortium team. The company is the first technical partner from outside the Lower 48 and joins 17 other national laboratories, universities and industry partners.

The consortium is one of five teams that received funding in April from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy  to pursue the development of geothermal energy. It is led by Robert Podgorney, who has had a longtime fascination with geothermal and heads INL’s Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy, or FORGE.

What he is hoping to see by 2018 is deep drilling on the Snake River Plain southwest of Howe. The consortium is proposing to locate the nation’s first Enhanced Geothermal System test site on the western edge of the INL, in a renowned “hot spot” that is already home to the lab’s 40-square-mile Geothermal Resource Research Area.

The idea is to have one well pumping water into the crust of the Earth 8,000 to 12,000 feet deep, then push it horizontally through fractures in the subsurface rock, heating it to around 175 degrees Celsius, then bringing the hot water back to the surface to produce energy. Podgorney said he believes FORGE has the potential to generate large amounts of carbon-free baseload power, perhaps revolutionizing energy production worldwide.

The money awarded in April — $400,000 to Podgorney’s consortium — is for Phase 1. Two teams will be eliminated before $27 million is awarded in Phase 2. Podgorney is optimistic that the consortium he has assembled will make the cut, which will be announced in June 2016.

“The practical experience that Chena brings to the team will be instrumental if our team is selected to move into Phase 2,” he said. “We need the kind of ingenuity that has gone into developing the power plant in Alaska, especially when it comes to demonstrating power generation at the later stages of FORGE.”

Chena Power’s announcement came at the Tenth Annual Renewable Energy Fair. Among those at the announcement were Alaska Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan.

Other participants in the consortium include the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; the Center for Advanced Energy Studies, which incorporates people from Idaho State University, Boise State University, the University of Idaho and the University of Wyoming; the University of Oklahoma and University of Utah; Mink GeoHydro and Baker Hughes.

An advisory panel has also been established to keep in touch with regulatory agencies and non-governmental organizations like the Idaho Conservation League and Snake River Alliance.

On social media, you can follow the FORGE team by searching #SnakeRiverFORGE and #FORGE. Follow @INL and @CAESEnergy on Twitter or visit our Facebook pages at and