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NEWS | Jan. 9, 2023

Enhanced Geothermal Systems pilot may provide infinite energy source for JBSA

By Lori A. Bultman 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Enhanced Geothermal Systems, or EGS, are promising technologies which, by tapping into heat stranded in rocks below the Earth’s surface, may enable reliable electric power production across the nation, according to the Department of Defense.

Overall, EGS technologies are in the early demonstration project phase, but that may change once they are tested through a new DOD pilot program for which Joint Base San Antonio, or JBSA, and Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho have been selected.

Making the task a difficult one is the fact that, while older geothermal electric information and options are available, next-generation EGS companies are fairly new, and currently there is little to no commercial EGS information available for purchase.

That is why the DOD generated the pilot and selected the San Antonio-Electromagnetic Defense, or SA-EMD, collaborative, by way of JBSA, in hopes of resolving the issue.

Since SA-EMD is already working on resiliency in power, water, and other essential services, it only made sense that the DOD ask JBSA to study and test geothermal options as well, said Michael Lovell, JBSA-Electromagnetic Defense Initiative and SA-EMD executive director.

“When it comes to military missions, it is vital that energy be available when needed to ensure national security,” Lovell said. “But as long as DOD relies on off-site utilities, there may be vulnerabilities in everyday operations on a military installation.”

Not only that, but the Air Force and Space Force are also dependent on off-site electricity to conduct globe-spanning missions in air, space, and cyberspace. This energy dependence creates mission risks due to disruptions from extreme weather or the possibility of cybersecurity attacks from determined adversaries, according to the EGS pilot’s Area of Interest Statement released Jan. 5. 

Congress also recognized the importance of resilient energy to maintain military missions, and under the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, directed the DOD to provide critical missions with 99.9 percent reliable energy by 2030.

One of the proposed solutions by the DOD was the geothermal pilot program.

Through the pilot, DOD is seeking to prototype innovative on-site geothermal solutions to address energy resilience needs through geothermal electricity generation and distribution.

The major benefit of tapping into the Earth’s heat energy is that it is virtually endless.

“Heat is naturally present everywhere in the earth,” according to the Department of Energy's Geothermal Technologies Office. “For all intents and purposes, heat from the earth is inexhaustible.”

Staff members working supporting SA-EMD are excited to bring another innovative pilot program to JBSA.

“One of the reasons JBSA was selected for this effort was the high number of partnerships we have through SA-EMD with technology, academia, and industry professionals locally, across the country, and around the world,” Lovell said.

It is expected that through the pilot’s collaborative efforts and testing, a geothermal prototype will be able to explore JBSA’s on-site geothermal resources at JBSA; develop those resources; and design a conceptual geothermal facility which might then be a viable option to provide electricity to the installation on a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week basis, maintaining mission assurance, according to the project’s Area of Interest Statement.

The goal for the pilot is also to, with the assistance of industry-wide experts, develop technologies that are suitable for the various geologic settings at the many DOD installations across the United States.

“Because of the military’s dependence on electrical power to gain and keep our strategic advantage, the DOD, Department of the Air Force, and Space Force are eager to pursue innovative geothermal projects, and we are equally as eager to help them,” Lovell said.

Technology partners with a background in geothermal capabilities may see the entire Area of Interest Statement at: