TWIN FALLS, Idaho (AP) — Geologists plan to drill a pair of mile-deep holes in southern Idaho in a hunt for geothermal fields that could be tapped to produce energy.
The $4.6 million project being led by Utah State University is spread over two years and is being paid for with federal stimulus money.
John Shervais, a professor and head of Utah State's Department of Geology, said the work will provide valuable student opportunities, boost the economy and help advance geothermal technologies.
"We know it's going to be hot, but nobody's ever drilled that deep in these areas," Shervais said.
Also taking part in the project are Boise State University, the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Alberta and the International Continental Drilling Program based in Potsdam, Germany.
The holes will be drilled through volcanic plains in Lincoln County starting in the spring or early summer. The drilling should also give researchers a better understanding of the Snake River Plain geology.
One hole is planned over a thick portion of the plain, while a second is on the edge. Researchers are hoping to find out whether the two locations have similar levels of heat and ability to produce power.
The drilling sites are on public land.
Shervais said the results of the drilling could help private companies decide whether they want to develop geothermal energy in the region.
"There's plenty of public and private land near both sites that could be available for putting in a power plant, should we prove the resource is sufficient," Shervais said.
Also getting federal stimulus money for geothermal projects is the Blaine County School District. It will receive $4 million to retrofit schools in Hailey, Carey and Bellevue in central Idaho with geothermal systems.
Boise State is receiving $1.55 million to digitize and upload geologic data into a national system.