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US government will pump $140M into geothermal research site in Utah

In a bid to expand geothermal energy development beyond select sites in the Western United States, the Trump administration picked the University of Utah to host a $140 million research project over the next five years to explore enhanced geothermal systems that could open opportunities across the country, the U.S. Department of Energy announced June 14.

To be located at a site near Milford, Utah, the so-called Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy, or FORGE, will build on initial work carried out by scientists under a $29 million investment announced by the Obama administration in 2016. Another research team was competing to bring the laboratory to a site in Fallon, Nev.

If successful, the research project could help to unlock an estimated 100 GW of geothermal resources across the U.S., according to the DOE. Roughly 3.8 GW of conventional geothermal capacity is currently operating in Western states.

Such enhanced geothermal systems "are the future of geothermal energy," Energy Secretary Rick Perry said in a news release. "Funding efforts toward the next frontier in geothermal energy technologies will help diversify the United States' domestic energy portfolio, enhance our energy access, and increase our energy security."

"This initiative highlights our world renowned scientists and the groundbreaking research and development at the University of Utah," Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, added in a statement. "The University's research revolutionizes production meaning that clean, reliable energy could be produced in thousands of locations."