JBSA prepares for first-of-its-kind geothermal energy prototype

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  • 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Joint Base San Antonio is the first Department of the Air Force installation planning to introduce a utility-scale advanced geothermal energy system.

This accomplishment bolsters national security and represents a critical milestone in the advancement of the nation's defense infrastructure. When operational, the system will hold the potential to furnish a seamless supply of clean, reliable baseload energy even in the event of commercial grid outages.

Advanced geothermal energy harnesses the Earth's natural heat reservoirs to extract energy using a closed-loop system to provide round-the-clock power availability. This closed-loop system operates continuously and cyclically, utilizing a controlled circuit of fluid to transfer heat from the Earth's interior, ensuring a constant and uninterrupted supply of energy.

By using this advanced technology, JBSA is poised to operate an energy-resilient facility that offers baseload, dependable, dispatchable power, which will enhance operations and improve energy security for both on and off-base communities.

Secured under a contract with Eavor Inc., a geothermal exploration and technology firm, this project signifies one of the Department of Defense's inaugural ventures into advanced utility-scale geothermal energy generation.

For U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Russell D. Driggers, JBSA and 502nd Air Base Wing commander, the integration of these cutting-edge technologies and prototypes marks history in the making.

“We are working to generate innovative, long-term and self-sustaining energy solutions for our mission’s future,” Driggers said. “With this pilot project, JBSA has an opportunity to spearhead innovations in clean energy and resilient infrastructure. And, as the largest joint base in the Department of Defense, we must continue to think ahead and look for opportunities to implement diverse, resilient energy sources that reduce emissions, enhance security and allow us to operate sustainably for years to come. This pilot project is potentially a major step in that direction.”

Defense Innovation Unit, the only DOD organization focused on leveraging commercial, cutting-edge technology solutions for our nation’s defense, led the solicitation effort. Eavor Inc. will execute the contract under the guidance of the U.S. Air Force Office of Energy Assurance, or AF OEA.

Lucinda Notestine, AF OEA Special Projects Division Chief said, “The Air Force, and all of the DOD and Congress, are looking for carbon-free, pollution-free electricity. This gives this to us. The technology will be safe for the community and local water sources and is very environmentally friendly.”

The use of these technologies has the potential to expand beyond Air Force and DOD installations to benefit communities across the United States.

“Geothermal pilots are the number one priority of Kirk Phillips, the Director of AF OEA,” Notestine said. “If we can prove this works at JBSA, where it might not be the best base for geothermal potential, then we can make this work anywhere.”

Effectively executing this advanced geothermal energy initiative is made possible by strategic collaboration between installation, technology, contracting, Air Force, and community partners.

“It’s critical to have these stakeholders together to execute the project on a shorter timeline than your normal acquisition timeline; and to make sure we’re meeting the needs of the DOD, the state, and the local community while meeting energy resilience and environmental concerns throughout the project,” said Blanche Dudoit, JBSA Electromagnetic Defense Initiative director of operations and project manager for the geothermal prototype.

“We are honored to serve the DOD to advance this technology because we have a community of the willing that's coming together with a team of teams,” Dudoit added.

Feasibility studies and testing of the selected site’s geothermal potential are set to begin within the next year and can take up to two years.