Generating electricity from the hot rocks deep underground is clean, safe and renewable – and it’s about to take a step forward in Utah.

The U.S. Department of Energy announced Monday that a team from the University of Utah’s Energy & Geoscience Institute is one of five research groups selected to study new techniques for developing geothermal energy in places where it’s not currently feasible. EGI is part of the U’s College of Engineering.

The U team of geologists and engineers, led by EGI research professor Joseph Moore, will evaluate establishing an underground geothermal laboratory about 10 miles north of Milford, Beaver County, within the Milford renewable energy corridor. This corridor is home to two geothermal plants and a 306-megawatt wind farm. Utah’s geothermal power plants provide enough electricity to power nearly 70,000 homes in Utah, California and Arizona.

“This is really game-changing technology in terms of being able to develop self-sustainable energy for the U.S.,” says Moore, who also is a geologist.

The award is a Phase I grant in a three-phase DOE project known as FORGE, or Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy. If selected for Phase III, the FORGE laboratory would be built on private land and cover about 10 acres. The laboratory would consist of two wells drilled to depths of about 8,000 feet. One well would be used to inject water into the hot rocks below. The second will recover the heated water, which is recycled.

Read the full press release in the U News Center.