Argonne among 7 federally funded geothermal projects

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The U.S. Energy Department has named Argonne National Laboratory as one of seven recipients of federal funding to improve drilling methods for geothermal energy.

The department announced $11.4 million in research and development funding Tuesday . Officials say geothermal energy is crucial but extraction is costly and time-consuming.

Lemont-based Argonne’s job will be to develop low-cost but very hard materials to develop drill bits capable of doubling the rate of penetration in geothermal wells.

The Energy Department says geothermal electricity production is located solely in western states. It provides just under 4 gigawatts of power. But improved extraction could open new areas for exploration and tap into 100 gigawatts of currently inaccessible energy.

Other projects are in New York, Texas, two in New Mexico and two in Oklahoma.