Energy policy — geothermal: Upper Ark looks at proposed development near Buena Vista

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Mount Princeton Geothermal LLC is investigating whether a $30 million-$40 million, 10-megawatt geothermal electric generating system could be built in the Chalk Creek area…

Envisioned are up to six production wells that would remove heated water from the ground, convert some of the heat energy to electric power and return cooled water to the same aquifer from which it is remove through four reinjection wells, said Fred Henderson, chief scientist for the project. “We still have to spend millions of dollars to see if the project is possible,” Henderson said…

There are roughly 500 homes in the area, and one of those residents, Steve Glover, an engineer, made a presentation to the Upper Ark board Thursday with his concerns about the proposal. “These fissures could go down 10,000-15,000 feet. If they model it wrong, then what are we stuck with?” Glover said. Glover also asked the Upper Ark board whether it could intervene with the Division of Water Resources in determining whether water used in the project – up to 23,000 acre-feet a year would circulate through the plumbing of a geothermal plant – is tributary to the Arkansas River basin…

The state’s role is to issue a well permit, but only after determining that the water does not impact existing water rights. “The application for a well permit would trigger the state engineer’s involvement,” said Julianne Woldridge, the Upper Ark’s water attorney…

It’s not known whether the project is possible because of the nature of the aquifer in the Buena Vista area. Formed by geologic uplift, the underground structure of rock is a spider’s web of intersecting fissures, Henderson said, overlapping his fingers at diagonal angles to illustrate the point.

The idea of a geothermal electric plant is to take water out of the ground at 2,000-3,000 feet, where it is near boiling temperatures, and use it to run a turbine and generator. The cooled water must then be re-injected into the same aquifer. There are questions about whether the water would need to be injected higher, lower or at the same depth in the aquifer, as well as where on the surface the injection wells should be located. Henderson said the first determination of whether deep production well sites are connected to injection well sites can only be determined for sure by deep drilling, which is scheduled to begin later this year as the third phase of the Mount Princeton project.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

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