Portland State University has received a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to study the feasibility of bringing new methods of harnessing the power of geothermal energy to previously untapped regions of the United States such as Portland.
PSU was one of six universities throughout the U.S. to receive a collective $4 million in grants from the DOE. Portland's share is $720,000, and will be split between PSU and local partners including the U.S. Geological Survey, City of Portland, AltaRock Energy, and OHSU.
The money will be used to research a new kind of geothermal technology called Deep Direct-Use.
Unlike traditional geothermal power, which relies on natural sources of subterranean hot water such as hot springs and volcanoes, Deep Direct-Use passively heats water above ground during the warm months, stores it underground and then uses the stored heat in the winter. The study will analyze Portland's underlying geology to see if it has enough insulating ability and storage capacity to make that happen.
The study will look at several areas, including OHSU and Portland International Airport. The two locations sit in different parts of the Portland Basin, but both could see significant benefits from successful use of Deep Direct-Use.
If PSU shows this renewable energy technology is feasible, it could deliver direct geothermal energy to many parts of the U.S. that lack conventional hydrothermal resources. It could potentially power buildings and replace conventional heating and cooling systems in military installations, hospital complexes, office buildings and hotels.
"The city of Portland and Portland State are very much behind the idea of this kind of renewable energy," said PSU geology professor John Bershaw, who will be heading the project with Dr. Erick Burns at the USGS. "I think that if there's anywhere in the country where this might work, it's right here in Portland."
Bershaw said OHSU could potentially incorporate the geothermal energy source as it builds new buildings on Portland's South Waterfront neighborhood.
The DOE study is expected to take two years and will involve PSU geology faculty Ashley Strieg and Ben Perkins, along with multiple graduate students.
About Portland State University (PSU)
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