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Arizona agency receives $17.8M for geothermal energy project

The Arizona Geological Survey received part of a $338 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy on Oct. 29 to push geothermal energy production closer to reality.

The Arizona survey, on behalf of the Association of American State Geologists, was awarded $17.8 million over three years to work with 40 other state geological surveys to create the National Geothermal Data System of state-specific geological information. Arizona is the lead agency in the project.

In the 1970s and 1980s, there was a push for geothermal energy. States did a great deal of research individually, creating numerous written reports, sketching maps, digging wells and gathering other data. But now all those reports and maps sit unused across the nation, said Mike Conway of the Arizona Geological Survey.

The grant will be used to collect all the analog reports and data to be digitized and housed in the online searchable database.

“Maps, well logs and written reports will be some of the greatest use in the search for more geothermal energy sources,” Conway said.

The hope is that by making the information available to everyone, the spark for geothermal energy will be reignited.

“This national collaboration of state and federal agencies has the potential to reshape America’s energy landscape, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and leverage non-renewable petroleum resources well into the 21st century,” said Conway.

Arizona requested $15.8 million for the project, and was surprised when the DOE granted an additional $2 million.

“We thought it was a typo,” Conway said. But they soon found out the extra money was given with a purpose. A few states, such as California and Washington that are rich in geothermal potential, were not in a position budget-wise to set aside time or workers to go through old records and add to the database. The DOE asked that Arizona involve the remaining seven states that have geological societies and compile their information with the rest of the country.

Many other projects involving geothermal energy were a part of the grants the DOE awarded, some dealing with the exploration into or application of geothermal energy. The information gathered by other projects will also be added to the national database.

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