Pagosa Springs hopes to expand use of geothermal resources in 2012


From the Pagosa Sun (Jim McQuiggin):

On Monday, Pagosa Springs Mayor Ross Aragon invited SUN staff into his office to discuss several projects that suggest the town could be on the threshold of significantly expanding the use of its geothermal resources, potentially putting Pagosa Springs on the map as a leader in green energy production and self-sustainability…

Long a pet project of the mayor’s, a geothermal greenhouse may soon be a feature in the core downtown area. With preliminary engineering completed on the project, Aragon indicated that the first of three greenhouses could be installed as soon as early summer…

To be located at the west end of Centennial Park, the project will ultimately include three, 51-foot growing domes, each with a specific purpose. The first to be installed will be used for education, with local K-12 students, as well as college students, studying permaculture practices and geothermal potential. Through their work and research, those students will determine which crops do well in geothermally-heated greenhouses, with the results of that research determining what would be grown in the second dome, used for commercial production…

One project, approved earlier this year by the Pagosa Springs Town Council and the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners, is a study that monitors the town’s geothermal wells in order to gather real-time data, measuring the extent of the geothermal aquifer’s behavior as well as the extent of available resources. To be conducted by Gerry Huttrer, president of the Geothermal Management Company (GMC) and one of the geothermal energy experts who has visited Pagosa Springs on numerous occasions to scope out area geothermal resources, the project would test the hypothesis that (as Huttrer and other geothermal experts proposed in a study released last October) “ … appears as if the geothermal resource is currently underutilized.”[…]

With meters installed on many geothermal wells throughout the area, data collected will measure moment-to-moment flows and temperatures. In a second phase of the study, Pagosa Springs Well No. 3 will be opened up (several times) to test the effects of uninhibited flows on the aquifer’s pressure and temperatures. That second phase has been timed to coincide with low use of geothermal wells to minimize potential effects on well users. A third phase would drill to various depths and then reinject the pumped water back into the aquifer in order to test the effect of cooled water on the reservoir…

Another project (as reported in the Nov. 3 edition of The SUN) will be conducted next May, complementing Huttrer’s research. At that time, Dr. Terry Young (head of the Geophysics Department at the Colorado School of Mines), Dr. Michael Batzle and Dr. André Revil (both professors of geophysics at Mines) will converge on Pagosa Country with dozens of graduate students, researching numerous characteristics of the aquifer…

Finally, Smith described what he calls “The Power Project” — research that would test temperatures and pressures deeper within the aquifer in order to see if conditions are sufficient for power generation. The first phase of the project entails shallow drilling into the aquifer to gather gases generated in the geothermal reservoir. Those samples will be sent to the University of New Mexico to determine what kinds of isotopes are generated in the aquifer. If those isotopes are specific to pressures and temperatures that suggest the potential for power generation, a second phase would drill deeper into the aquifer to determine if phase one results were accurate. Current understanding of the aquifer shows temperatures somewhat below the threshold required for power generation. If research shows that temperatures deep within the aquifer exceed those needed to generate power, “The Power Project” would proceed with the installation of Colorado’s first geothermal power plant.

More geothermal coverage here and here.

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