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14. GEOTHERMAL Technologies

Maximum Phase I Award Amount: $200,000

Maximum Phase II Award Amount: $1,100,000

Accepting SBIR Phase I Applications: YES

Accepting STTR Phase I Applications: YES


Geothermal energy is secure, reliable, flexible, and constant. It continues to be one of America’s best choices for low-cost renewable energy in power generation and in direct-use applications for heating and cooling of American homes and businesses. The Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO) focuses on applied research, development, and innovations that will improve the competitiveness of geothermal energy and support the continued expansion of the geothermal industry across the U.S. [1]. Specifically, GTO is focused on significantly increasing geothermal electricity generation and the use of geothermal heat pumps and district heating by 2050 [2].


For FY 2021, GTO’s SBIR focus is on R&D related to naturally occurring tracers to characterize geothermal reservoirs. Naturally occurring tracers can include critical materials, minerals, isotopes, etc. that are found in geothermal fluids as they exist in the reservoir. Analysis and modeling of such naturally occurring tracers can be used to better characterize key reservoir parameters leading to improved understanding and performance of geothermal reservoirs, further expanding the usage and utility of geothermal energy. Because improving the understanding of critical materials and other natural tracers within geothermal reservoirs will inform future critical material recovery efforts associated with geothermal systems, this technology area also supports the Federal Strategy to Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals, Call to Action 4: Improve Understanding of Domestic Critical Mineral Resources [3].


A Phase I application should focus on proof of concept, bench scale testing, and/or preliminary model design that are scalable to subsequent Phase II development. Applications must be responsive to the subtopic below. Any application outside of this area will not be considered.


Applications must:

·         Propose a tightly structured program which includes technical milestones that demonstrate clear progress, are aggressive but achievable, and are quantitative;

·         Include projections for price and/or performance improvements that are tied to a baseline (i.e. roadmap targets and/or state of the art products or practices);

·         Explicitly and thoroughly differentiate the proposed innovation with respect to existing commercially available products or solutions;

·         Include a preliminary cost analysis;

·         Justify all performance claims with theoretical predictions and/or relevant experimental data.


Note: In addition to the subtopic below, GTO is considering proposals in response to Topic 20 - Joint Topic: CABLE Materials and Applications through subtopic g: “Geothermal: Direct Use and Electricity Generation Applications.”


Grant applications are sought in the following subtopic:


a.      Usage of Critical Materials, Minerals, Isotopes, and other Naturally Occurring Tracers to Characterize Geothermal Reservoirs

In this subtopic, GTO solicits innovative research and development projects to better characterize geothermal reservoirs by utilizing naturally occurring tracers such as critical materials (lithium, cobalt, etc.), minerals, isotopes, or other components of complex geothermal fluids such as silica or salts. 


Optimization of heat exchange performance in geothermal reservoirs is critical; fractures are the conduits for heat transfer and therefore the distribution, length, aperture, connectivity, flowing pressure, thermal conductivity of fractures impact fluid residence time, fracture connectivity, and reservoir volume, all of which control the performance and sustainability of a geothermal reservoir.


Applications may include, but are not limited to the following:

·         utilizing fluid-rock interactions of naturally occurring tracers to characterize the fundamental characteristics of the geothermal reservoir;

·         chemical and thermodynamic interactions between critical materials/minerals and other components of complex geothermal fluids (e.g. silica, salts, etc.);

·         obtaining an understanding on the specific source of the critical material(s)/isotopes within the geothermal reservoir; and/or

·         chemical effects of geothermal brines reinjected into the reservoir. 


Innovation into extraction technologies for critical materials from geothermal brines or other fluids will be deemed non-responsive and not receive external merit review.


In Phase I, applicants should focus on proof-of-concept towards a preliminary geologic model with updates on reservoir parameters including findings from the project. In Phase II, applicants should propose technical metrics regarding improvements to understanding of reservoir parameters, plant efficiency, and costs/revenue that can be benchmarked to existing technologies. 


Questions – Contact: William Vandermeer,



1.      U.S. Department of Energy. “Geothermal Technologies Office.” U.S. DOE, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy,


2.      U.S. Department of Energy. “GeoVision.” Geothermal Technologies Office, U.S. Department of Energy,


3.      U.S. Department of Commerce. “A Federal Strategy to Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals.” U.S. Department of Commerce,


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