The role of flexible geothermal power in decarbonized electricity systems

Wilson Ricks, Katharine Voller, Gerame Galban, Jack H. Norbeck, Jesse D. Jenkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Enhanced geothermal systems (EGSs) are an emerging energy technology with the potential to greatly expand the viable resource base for geothermal power generation. Although EGSs have traditionally been envisioned as ‘baseload’ resources, flexible operation of EGS wellfields could allow these plants to provide load-following generation and long-duration energy storage. In this work we evaluate the impact of operational flexibility on the long-run system value and deployment potential of EGS power in the western United States. We find that load-following generation and in-reservoir energy storage enhance the role of EGS power in least-cost decarbonized electricity systems, substantially increasing optimal geothermal penetration and reducing bulk electricity supply costs compared to systems with inflexible EGSs or no EGSs. Flexible geothermal plants preferentially displace the most expensive competing resources by shifting their generation on diurnal and seasonal timescales, with round-trip energy storage efficiencies of 59–93%. Benefits of EGS flexibility are robust across a range of electricity market and geothermal technology development scenarios.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalNature Energy
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology


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