Mainstream Engineering Awarded Grant from the Department of Energy to Design a Flexible, Load-following Geothermal Power Plant
Heat energy from the earth represents a nearly inexhaustible and underutilized domestic energy resource. This project is developing technology that will allow geothermal power plants to operate flexibly, enabling them to seamlessly adjust their electrical power output in response to requests from the electric utility.
Enabling flexible geothermal power is important because other renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, are not flexible. The need is especially acute in places like California that have a large fraction of renewable power. California has a goal of achieving 40% renewable power by 2022, and also has thousands of megawatts of unused available geothermal power.
Designing a flexible geothermal plant is challenging because geothermal wells respond slowly and can be intolerant of process fluctuations. As part of this development project, Mainstream’s engineers, along with engineers from Cornell University, are developing a thermal energy storage unit that will buffer against these fluctuations and sidestep some design challenges related to peak power production and fast transient response. By catalyzing the adoption of flexible geothermal power, this technology would allow for better geothermal resource utilization.
Mainstream Engineering Corporation
Mainstream Engineering Corporation is a solutions-oriented research, development and manufacturing small business with a history of leading-edge R&D that has resulted in advanced, American-made, cost-competitive products. Founded in 1986, Mainstream’s mission is to transition thermal control, energy storage and energy conversion technology into high-quality, cost-effective, environmentally safe green, commercial products. Products include lightweight diesel engines, thermal control units, biomass conversion technologies, refrigerators/freezers for shipping containers and the QwikProducts™ line of heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVAC/R) products. Areas of research include thermal control, energy conversion, power electronics, turbomachinery, chemical technology and materials science.