A report on the town’s geothermal heating utility was provided to the Pagosa Springs Town Council at a regular meeting on July 7.
The geothermal heating system has been operated and owned by the town since December of 1982, according to Public Works Director Martin Schmidt.
The town put out a bid and Alan Plummer Associates Inc. was awarded with an assessment of the utility, Schmidt explained.
Currently, the geothermal system has 32 customers that range from a school to small residences, Schmidt explained.
The geothermal system is fully operational and the town has not experienced any failures that would inhibit the utility to heat those that the town committed to heating, Schmidt added.
A report from Alan Plummer As- sociates Inc. Project Engineer Steve Omer done for the town touches on the system’s current conditions, ca- pacity and expansion opportunities…
One idea for an expansion opportunity was to cool homes in the summer with the geothermal piping using river water, Schmidt noted.
“When you actually look at theriver data, the average temperature of the river through the summer months is 63 and a half degrees, and 63 and a half degrees doesn’t give us enough of a difference,” he said…
Another expansion opportunity looked into by Omer was the limits of the geothermal system and how many more customers the town could add to the system.
“We found that we could not add a customer like the high school. Just the high school would overwhelm the system.” Schmidt said.
The coronavirus pandemic has mostly yielded bad news for renewable energy. Disruptions to supply chains and slowdowns in permitting and construction have delayed solar and wind projects, endangering their eligibility for the soon-to-expire investment tax credits they rely on. There’s another form of renewable energy, however, that might see a benefit from the recent global economic upheaval and emerge in a better position to help the United States decarbonize its electricity system: geothermal…
Unlike wind and the sun, subsurface heat is available 24/7, perpetually replenished by the radioactive decay of minerals deeper down. But compared to wind and solar farms, geothermal power plants are expensive to build. The cost can range from $2,000 to $5,000 per installed kilowatt, and even the least expensive geothermal plant in the U.S. costs more than double that of a utility-scale solar farm. Engineers have to drill thousands of feet into the ground to reach reservoirs of water and rock hotter than 300 degrees F in order for the plants to be economical. Plants generate electricity by pumping steam or hot water up from those reservoirs to spin a turbine which powers a generator.
Experts told Grist that drilling can account for anywhere between 25 to 70 percent of the cost of a project, depending on where it is, the method of drilling, and the equipment required. But now, the companies that supply the machinery and services for drilling are starting to slash rates.
That’s because they are the same suppliers the oil industry uses, but oil companies are idling drilling rigs and cutting contracts left and right. They’re getting pummeled by the largest oil price crash in decades, the result of plunging demand due to the pandemic and a glut in supply because of a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia. On Tuesday, the U.S. Energy Information Administration revised its short-term outlook for crude oil production, predicting a steep decline through 2021. All of the suppliers who are normally digging for oil are now eager for new business.
Tim Latimer, a former drilling engineer for the oil and gas industry and now the cofounder and CEO of Fervo Energy, a geothermal energy company (and a 2020 Grist 50 Fixer) said suppliers have already been willing to knock 10 percent off quotes they gave him a few weeks ago. In a recent Twitter thread, Latimer predicted that drilling costs could drop by as much as 20 to 40 percent. On top of that, interest rates are down, and recovery bills with new funding for clean energy are potentially around the corner.
Lowering the up-front cost of building a geothermal power plant would allow plant operators to bring down electricity prices, which could attract new interest in geothermal from utilities. “If you can bring that price down even a little bit,” Latimer said, utility buyers “get a lot more excited about it because they want to have something in their portfolio that can produce electricity at night.”
In California, which has set a target of 100 percent clean electricity by 2045, energy providers are starting to recognize the benefits of geothermal’s round-the-clock power and have agreed to purchase power from two new plants being built in the state. But in states where there isn’t as much pressure to decarbonize, it’s a tough sell: The cost of electrons from a geothermal plant can be more than three times as high as those from solar and wind.
Part of the problem, according to Susan Petty, the chief technology officer, president, and co-founder of geothermal company AltaRock Energy, is that utilities don’t place extra value on geothermal’s ability to generate electricity all the time. She said bringing drilling costs down will help, but it would help even more if there were parity in the tax incentives for renewables: This year, geothermal electricity projects were eligible for a 10 percent investment tax credit, compared to a 26 percent credit for solar and wind.
Geothermal faces other hurdles, like a lengthy permitting process that stretches out project timelines. It can be challenging to find investors during the early, risky stages of a project, before the viability of developing a given site has been proven. Geothermal also suffers from a PR problem — people just aren’t as familiar with it as they are with wind and solar. The technology has been around in the U.S. since the 1960s, but for these reasons and others, geothermal still only makes up 0.4 percent of the U.S. electricity mix.
The La Plata Electric Asso- ciation (LPEA) Board of Directors voted at its meeting last week to award the Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership (GGP) $13,000 from its Renewable Generation Funds Grant program to support a solar installation to generate electricity for the GGP site in Centennial Park.
Projects were selected based on visibility to the local community, level of innovation, and the potential to blend renewable technologies with educational elements and community engagement.
Grant monies are sourced from LPEA’s Local Renewable Generation Fund — an opt-in fund to which LPEA members can contribute to support the development of renewable energy generation projects in the service territory.
For more information on the program, LPEA members should call 382-3505.
FromThe Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Joe Vaccarelli):
New research in Milford, Utah led by the University of Utah will study geothermal reservoirs. The university received $140 million from the U.S. Department of Energy for the Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE) site.
John McLennan, a research scientist and associate professor with the Energy and Geoscience Institute at the University of Utah, shared his insights into the new facility and the potential for geothermal energy in the U.S. during an energy briefing Wednesday hosted by the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce at the DoubleTree Hotel.
FORGE will be an underground lab that will drill wells in an effort to extract geothermal energy. Geothermal power can help with agriculture, aquaculture, space heating and more. The site is near the intersection of Interstate 70 and Interstate 15 in central Utah…
Utah has three geothermal plants producing energy at the moment. Colorado does not have any, McLennan said. However, he pointed out that Colorado Mesa University heats and cools its buildings on campus using a geothermal system that includes seven well fields and 171,000 feet of pipes. He noted it could save the university upward of $1 million.
During his presentation Wednesday, McLennan pointed to the benefits and challenges of geothermal energy, noting that many of the areas that have used it are along the so-called “Ring of Fire” of the Pacific Rim or in areas with natural hot springs. He did say that it takes a great deal more water to create energy than oil, but it is a cleaner energy source.
However, the drilling can create a problem and he pointed to several failures over the past 40 years. He said new technology with drilling and connecting wells could have a positive impact on the industry, especially at the FORGE site.
The University of Utah has studied the site since 1980, particularly on seismic level as drilling can spur some activity. He said FORGE is in an area of low seismic activity and small populations of both animals and people.
As for its potential, McLennan said geothermal isn’t in line to replace other forms of energy, but could be a nice supplement of power for communities around the country.
The Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) and the Colorado Energy Office (CEO) are seeking applicants for agricultural energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.
The total amount available for assistance in fiscal year 2019 is $250,000. The funding is available to Colorado agricultural irrigators, dairies, greenhouses, nurseries and cold storage facilities.
The funding is part of the multiagency Colorado Agricultural Energy Efficiency Program, which provides technical and financial assistance to agricultural producers to install and maintain projects that address natural resource concerns in Colorado. The current funding amount includes $200,000 for energy efficiency projects and $50,000 for renewable energy projects. This funding is provided by CDA’s Advancing Colorado’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency grant program.
The Colorado Agricultural Energy Efficiency Program provides a turnkey approach that makes energy-efficiency improvements easy for producers. The program provides free energy audits, renewable energy site assessments and technical support services to about 60 Colorado producers annually.
CEO administers the program and funds the energy audits and technical support services, along with some project financing. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and CDA also provide funding for project implementation and additional services.
Applicants must be enrolled in the agricultural efficiency program and complete either an energy audit to receive funding for energy efficiency projects or complete a preliminary site assessment and technical report to receive funding for renewable energy projects.
Applicants may receive up to $50,000 per project. Additional federal funding may be available. Eligible energy-efficiency projects are limited to those recommended in the energy audit report. Eligible renewable energy technologies are limited to thermal systems for hot or chilled water, process heat, or space conditioning, and solar photovoltaic systems. Renewable energy technologies for thermal systems include geothermal and advanced heat-pump systems, and solar thermal technologies.
Click here to go to the website. Here’s an excerpt:
As the world gets hotter and more crowded, our engines continue to pump out dirty emissions, and half the world has no access to clean fuels or technologies (e.g. stoves, lamps), the very air we breathe is growing dangerously polluted: nine out of ten people now breathe polluted air, which kills 7 million people every year. The health effects of air pollution are serious – one third of deaths from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease are due to air pollution. This is an equivalent effect to that of smoking tobacco, and much higher than, say, the effects of eating too much salt.
Air pollution is hard to escape, no matter how rich an area you live in. It is all around us. Microscopic pollutants in the air can slip past our body’s defences, penetrating deep into our respiratory and circulatory system, damaging our lungs, heart and brain.
FromThe Guardian (Damian Carrington and Matthew Taylor):
Simple act of breathing is killing 7 million people a year and harming billions more, but ‘a smog of complacency pervades the planet’, says Dr Tedros Adhanom
Air pollution is the “new tobacco”, the head of the World Health Organization has warned, saying the simple act of breathing is killing 7 million people a year and harming billions more.
Over 90% of the world’s population suffers toxic air and research is increasingly revealing the profound impacts on the health of people, especially children.
“The world has turned the corner on tobacco. Now it must do the same for the ‘new tobacco’ – the toxic air that billions breathe every day,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director general. “No one, rich or poor, can escape air pollution. It is a silent public health emergency.”
From the Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership (Sally High) via The Pagosa Sun:
Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership (GGP) welcomes Colorado School of Mines (CSM) and Colorado Geologic Survey back to Pagosa Springs this week.
CSM’s seventh Geophysics Field Camp builds on previous years’ research into Archuleta County’s geothermal plumbing.
The GGP invites the public to a scientific retrospective of collected data and updated interpretations of the local geothermal resource on
Wednesday, May 23. The workshop is at the Archuleta County CSU Extension building from 6 to 8 p.m. The GGP workshop contains two presentations.
Dr. Andrei Swidinsky and Stephen Cuttler of CSM will present a seven-year retrospective of the geophysical data collected by CSM students. Each year’s field camp adds to our understanding of the underground structure of our geothermal aquifer.
Dr. Paul Morgan is senior geo- thermal geologist at Colorado Geological Survey. In 2017, Morgan published Origins and Geothermal Potential of Thermal Springs in Archuleta County, including Pagosa Springs, Colorado, USA (Revisited). The paper was first presented at the international Geothermal Resource Council’s 2017 conference. The Archuleta County public can hear Morgan’s revised interpretations at the GGP workshop.
The GGP is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit operating an educational park in downtown Pagosa Springs. The nonprofit park demonstrates geothermal direct energy use, year-round horticulture and environmental awareness. Twenty-first century water conservation and geothermal potential are priorities of GGP’s mission.
GGP’s Education Dome is busy with student and volunteer activity, and the Community Garden Dome and Innovation Dome are being constructed. Pagosa Springs Centennial Park’s Riverwalk is the site of the GGP project.
There is no charge for the GGP’s geothermal resource update work- shop, although donations to the nonprofit are accepted. The public is welcome.
After about a year of gardening in a dome on the banks of the San Juan River in Pagosa Springs, the Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership plans to start construction on two more domes this spring.
Residents began planning the growing spaces in 2008 and 2009 during the Great Recession as a way to revitalize the town’s historic downtown. The vision was to provide an educational and growing space for all ages and demonstrate geothermal energy, said Sally High, the president of the nonprofit’s board of directors…
In addition to drawing in the public, it has also produced a bountiful harvest with thousands of tomatoes, leafy greens and other vegetables. The dome, 42 feet in diameter, produced enough bounty to sell at the farmers market in its first year, she said.
In the next phase of construction, the nonprofit plans a dome to house a community garden and an innovation dome, which will be used to demonstrate aquaponics – a hydroponic system that incorporates fish to help feed the plants, High said.
Construction of the new domes this spring will be funded by a $174,500 grant from the Colorado Water Plan Engagement and Innovation Fund and a $34,000 matching grant from the Colorado Garden Foundation.
When complete, the final cost of the project could be between $800,000 and $1 million, High said.
From the Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership via the The Pagosa Daily Post (Sally High):
The Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership (GGP) will begin construction of two more growing dome greenhouses — the Community Garden Dome and the Innovation Dome — in spring 2018. These two domes will be installed next to the existing Education Dome in Pagosa Springs’ Centennial Park on a parcel leased from the Town of Pagosa Springs.
The Colorado Water Plan (CWP) Engagement and Innovation Fund granted Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership $174,500 for the construction of the nonprofit organization’s second and third growing domes. The Colorado Water Conservation Board approved the CWP grant earlier in November. These funds, coupled with a $34,000 matching grant from Colorado Garden Foundation awarded last February, allow the GGP to fulfill its agreement to build three geothermal greenhouses.
Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership is a volunteer-driven 501c3 educational organization, building a Pagosa-scale botanic park within Centennial Park on the San Juan River Walk. Its mission is “to educate the community in sustainable agricultural practices by producing food year-round using local renewable energy.” Demonstrating the value of Pagosa’s geothermal resource remains an organizational priority.
The October 2017 Smart Growth America Report listed the GGP as an important amenity for the community. Both the Archuleta County Community Economic Development Action Plan and Downtown Colorado Inc. identified the GGP as a priority for downtown economic revitalization. With the Education Dome completed in 2016, the GGP began fulfilling its mission in 2017.
In GGP’s first year of operations, the Education Dome and Amphitheater became busy gathering places. GGP hosted its 5th Colorado Environmental Film Festival Caravan in downtown Pagosa. Five Lifelong Learning Workshops explored various environmental issues and celebrated the biodiversity of the San Juan River Walk. Two well-attended special events included the first San Juan Sounds live concert and the 2nd Colorfest Breakfast with Balloons. Pagosa’s youth began horticultural activities and GGP’s volunteers nurtured an abundant garden for the community.
2018 promises more classes, educational workshops and special events in Centennial Park. Children from 4-H, public and charter school classrooms, and home schools are already learning each week in the Education Dome. The 6th Environmental Film Festival is planned for mid-April. Lifelong Learning Workshops will include in-depth education about the wise use of Colorado’s water. Live music and performance are planned for the GGP Amphitheater, as well as the 3rd Colorfest Breakfast with Balloons.
The Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership operates through a professional Board of Directors, numerous volunteers, five strategic committees and an enthusiastic membership base. GGP committees include (1) Soil, Seeds and Water; (2) Site; (3) Fundraising and Special Events; (4) Landscaping; and (5) Programming. An informational question and answer session for the community is planned for January 2018.
Learn more at the GGP website at pagosagreen.org.
Sally High is the Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership Board President.
The Pagosa Springs Town Council voted to enter into an operating agreement with the Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership (GGP) regarding Centennial Park during its regular meeting on Thursday, Aug. 17.
The agreement states that structures in place at Centennial Park that were funded by various grants will be owned by the town…
[At a recent meeting of the Town Council, Greg Schulte] talked of a grant that was awarded by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DoLA) to the town.
“As a virtue of receiving that grant, the things that were paid for by that grant become town property,” explained Schulte. “On the same token, the GGP received a CWCB (Colorado Water Conservation Board) grant and essentially, as the recipient of those funds, the things that were purchased with that become property of the GGP.”
Continued Schulte, “In a very, sort of, general sense, the CWCB money was paying for the stuff that was below the ground, we paid for most of the stuff above the ground.”
Schulte went on to explain that, in a conversation with GGP board of directors, the question was posed of whether the GGP really cares if the town was in possession of underground pipes or not, with the GGP responding that they didn’t mind.
“So, basically this operating agreement does detail how we operate together, but it’s going to move forward on the premise that, essentially, the GGP is going to convey to the town their interest in the infrastructure that was paid for by the CWCB,” explained Schulte. “So, essentially, what this means is that … the town does have a land lease with the GGP for a significant period of time along with the geothermal water … the infrastructure becomes part of the overall land lease.”
Schulte added that the town doesn’t anticipate one day owning the domes or foundations on the property.
“What we’re intending to do is to move forward with the premise that the DoLA money and the structure funded by the CWCB will essentially be owned by the town going forward,” said Schulte.
Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) recently completed an assessment of our Nation’s geothermal resources. Geothermal power plants are currently operating in six states: Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, and Utah. The assessment indicates that the electric power generation potential from identified geothermal systems is 9,057 Megawatts-electric (MWe), distributed over 13 states. The mean estimated power production potential from undiscovered geothermal resources is 30,033 MWe. Additionally, another estimated 517,800 MWe could be generated through implementation of technology for creating geothermal reservoirs in regions characterized by high temperature, but low permeability, rock formations.
Solar panels, such these at the Garfield County Airport near Rifle, Colo., need virtually no water, once they are manufactured. Photo/Allen Best
Wind farm Logan County
Click here to read the whole interview. Here’s an excerpt:
“We need to innovate and do research on all different forms of energy,” [Martin Keller] said. “It would be a mistake to write off any — as long as the energy is carbon neutral. That’s the biggest thing, [because] burning fossil fuels is changing the environment.”
Keller took the reins at NREL, part of the network of laboratories run by the U.S. Department of Energy, at the end of November 2015. He hails from a sister DOE facility in Tennessee, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where he served as the associate laboratory director for energy and environmental sciences.
He succeeds Dan Arvizu, who announced plans in March 2015 to retire from the lab after more than 10 years as its director.
The Colorado School of Mines recently completed a preliminary study of Rico’s geothermal resources and presented three potential development options during a town meeting Aug. 25…
Paul Morgan, senior geologist and geophysicist for the college, reported that surface hot springs in the Rico area have low toxic elements, and have temperatures ranging between 93 and 111 degrees Fahrenheit…
Becky Lafrancois, School of Mines economics professor and co-author of the study, evaluated the business potential for a small hot-springs spa, commercial-grade geothermal greenhouse, and district-level heating of buildings.
According to 18th century Scots poet Robert Burns, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
Pagosa Verde owner Jerry Smith must have this line of poetry running through his mind all the time when dealing with the federal, state and local government, and Monday night’s meeting of the Pagosa Area Geothermal Water and Power Authority was probably no exception.
The authority, which consists of three town councilors (David Schanzenbaker, John Egan and Mayor Don Volger), the three county commissioners (Michael Whiting, Steve Wadley and chairman Clifford Lucero) and one at-large seat held by Mike Alley, just barely had enough members show up at Town Hall to achieve a quorum for the meeting.
Town Manager Greg Schulte, along with County Administrator Bentley Henderson and County Attorney Todd Starr, acts as staff for the authority, began by giving some background information for the people in the audience who may not have attended the authority’s previous meetings.
The original intent of the authority, as spelled out in the agreement between the town and the county, was to enter into an agreement with Pagosa Verde to form a separate entity — Pagosa Waters LLC — as a public/private partnership.
Pagosa Waters would then consist of three people: one appointed by the authority, one appointed by Pagosa Verde and one at-large member. The point being, this arrangement would ensure joint ownership of the project between the two local governments and Pagosa Verde, while at the same time allowing the project to be managed by a full-time, working board instead of part-time government volunteers.
According to Schulte, a wrinkle in the plan occurred because of a recently awarded grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs worth nearly $2 million. Archuleta County was the official applicant for the grant because DOLA only deals with local government bodies, not private companies.
The $2 million grant from DOLA counts as matching funds for a $4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, which was awarded earlier this year to Pagosa Verde. However, since Pagosa Verde is a privately owned, for-profit company and Pagosa Waters LLC would be a public/private partnership, DOLA had concerns about the legality of Archuleta County funneling its funds into the project.
Schulte then alluded to a meeting held last week involving himself, town attorney Bob Cole, Starr and another attorney, Russ Dykstra, who has some experience with similar situations.
Starr then took over the briefing, explaining, “He has been involved in some very large public/private partnerships … and his suggestion was that, from everybody’s stand-point, an LLC is probably not the form we want to take. Some sort of concession agreement is the best way to do it because we can take care of all of Jerry’s requirements and all of our requirements.”
Nobody doubts that the Colorado town of Pagosa Springs has hot water. It bubbles to the surface at around 140 degrees and in quantities sufficient to sustain a large commercial spa and several more public pools along the San Juan River.
As well, the hot water heats 13 businesses and 5 homes in downtown Pagosa Springs plus the Archuleta County courthouse, delivering this energy at a cost roughly 20 to 25 percent below the going rate for natural gas and 30 percent less than electricity.
But is there sufficient hot water available to produce electricity, warm 10 acres of greenhouses, and deliver heat to 600 homes?
Geologic modeling suggests there is, but until additional wells are drilled, as is expected later this summer, there’s no way of knowing for sure. If those exploratory wells confirm large volumes of hot water, then two large-bore wells will be required to extract the hot water and, after the heat is transferred from the water, return it underground.
Federal and state grants this year have given the project traction. The U.S. Department of Energy delivered $3.9 million, followed by $1.9 million from state sources. The town and county governments created a consortium called the Pagosa Area Geothermal Water and Power Authority to provide 30 percent in local funds, or $520,000, as required by the federal grant.
A private company, Pagosa Verde, which is pushing the project, came up with an equal amount in in-kind services. It owns 20 percent of the project and has the backing of a South Carolina-based investment firm called Natural Energy LLC.
Another milestone occurred in late May, when Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper stopped in Pagosa to sign H.B. 14-1222 into law. The law, co-sponsored by Sen. Ellen Roberts, a Republican from Durango, and Sen. Gail Schwartz, a Democrat from Snowmass Village, lengthens the repayment period and otherwise provides great flexibility for private-activity bonds issued with the backing of the state government for geothermal and other renewable energy projects.
Michael McReynolds, policy advisor at the Colorado Energy Office, says the new law recognizes the large costs of proving the geothermal resource exists before development can occur.
However, other areas of the state are interested in replicating the business model of diverse revenue streams being assembled at Pagosa Springs. “It really depends upon the specific communities and what they want to pursue,” he said when asked if the new law will be used to finance other community renewable energy projects.
Jerry Smith, the chief executive at Pagosa Verde, says the new law was “huge” in allowing the project in Pagosa Springs to go forward.
In providing access up to $16.7 million available for as little as 2 percent interest, Smith’s project can now proceed. He estimates the need to spend $26 million before revenue can be gained.
“It’s a community-scale project, replicable throughout the Rocky Mountain states. I wanted town and county citizens to own it,” says Smith. “They only way they could participate was by forming an authority, similar to a housing authority. It’s a quasi-governmental authority.”
The public-private partnership is called Pagosa Waters LLC.
Because of the lower-cost money produced by the state and federal grants plus the clear bonding authority enabled by the new state law, he sees a financial path opening up.
Bonds will be just 2 percent. “That’s essentially free money,” he says. “We can borrow as much as we need to secure revenue for the project, “and it’s a way we go.”
Cheap borrowed money also relieves the onus of finding extremely hot water and arranging for sale of electricity, says Smith. If tests reveal merely hot water, such as bubbles up in the local springs, then that’s still hot enough for greenhouses and living rooms.
From the Romans forward
Hot water originating underground has long been put to practical uses. Romans at Pompei used hot water to heat buildings.
The Idaho Capitol Building has been heated with water drawn from 3,000 feet below ground, but 86 buildings with more than 5.5 million square feet of space are also heated by a separate geothermal heating district, according to Jon Gunnerson, geothermal coordinator for the City of Boise Public Works. It is the largest geothermal heating system in the United States, he says.
Commercial electrical production from geothermal sources began in 1911 in Larderello, Italy. The first commercial electrical production in the United States began in 1960 at The Geysers in California.
In 2013, according to the Geothermal Energy Association, the United States had 3,386 megawatts of installed geothermal capacity, or about three times as much as the trio of giant coal-fired power plants found in the Comanche complex near Pueblo, Colo.
Less prominent than photovoltaic panels, geothermal was nonetheless responsible for 0.41 percent of all electrical generation last year, ahead of solar at 0.23 percent. Biomass, wind, and hydro all produced more than geothermal.
California far and away has the most geothermal installed capacity, followed by Nevada, then trailed more distantly by Hawaii, Utah, and Idaho.
In Colorado, geothermal resources have been used to heat small greenhouses associated with the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs, near Buena Vista, as well as commercial springs. But no electrical production has been achieved because of concerns that new uses will rob existing users of their heat.
“Until very recently, Colorado’s geothermal potential for generating electricity has been assigned little promise,” notes the Colorado School of Mines at its geothermal website. “This appears to be based more on a lack of study, rather than on sound science.”
The website article goes on to note that a 2008 report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that Colorado is the top state in the nation for potential commercial development of its heat, mostly if deep wells are drilled near Rico, Trinidad and other hot spots in a process called enhanced geothermal recovery.
Potential in Pagosa
Just how much electricity the Pagosa project could produce depends upon the heat of water. Colorado School of Mines studies concluded a strong likelihood of substantial hot water 2,000 to 5,000 feet under the land leased by Smith’s company about two miles south of downtown Pagosa Springs. Hot water for the downtown heating district is drawn from a depth of 300 feet.
Smith says it’s a cinch that the water found 2,000 to 5,000 deep will be at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature of the water found closer to the surface. If so, it should be enough to produce four megawatts of round-the-clock electricity, what is called base-load generation.
If the water is 250 degrees, as the geological modeling suggests, it could generate 12 megawatts—and still have residual heat for the greenhouses and the homes.
Archuleta County altogether has baseload demand for 20 megawatts of generation. Another renewable source, a proposed biomass plant that would burn forest products to generate electricity, would generate 5 megawatts. Both biomass and geothermal generators probably need to get paid more for their electricity by the local electrical cooperative, La Plata Electric, than what the cooperative currently pays.
Biomass plant proponent J.R. Ford last winter said he needed 15 to 20 percent more than what the La Plata and other electrical cooperatives pay wholesale provider Tri-State Generation and Transmission. Tri-State’s power comes primarily from coal, natural gas, and hydroelectric.
Both the geothermal and biomass projects in Archuleta County are representative of small sources of electricity called distributed generation. In a famous 1976 essay published in Foreign Affairs, Aspen-area resident Amory Lovins advocated more localized generation as necessary to shift power production from giant but often distant coal-fired power plants. In that same essay, Lovins also stressed that more local sources of electricity would reduce the vulnerability of the grid to terrorism.
“Distributed energy is what the world needs to get to,” says Smith, who cites Lovins as one of his heroes.
Smith moved to Archuleta County in 1989 after a career in the entertainment industry in California. He describes himself as a “liberal arts guy who values things that most people find technical and dry.”
Geothermal is wet, of course, but whether it moves forward in Pagosa Springs depends upon the outcome of a review by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The 600 acres of land leased for the drilling between the San Juan River and Highway 84 has a plant species, the Pagosa skyrocket (Ipomopsis polyantha), which has been listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
The plant grows one or two feet tall, often in the understory of Ponderosa pine, and has been found in only three places, all near Pagosa Springs.
The federal grant money triggered the need for a biological assessment, which will be the basis for a biological opinion. If adverse effects can be avoided, such as by using care in the placement of wells, the Fish and Wildlife Service can approve the drilling this summer.
Existing wells reach a maximum 1,200 feet, but Smith expects to need wells 2,500 to 5,000 feet deep. The working hypothesis is that the underground rocks at the site are fractured than those that provide the water for the commercial hot springs and downtown heating district.
How will anybody know if the new wells are tapping a new source of heat instead of robbing the existing geothermal resource? Smith says his company will inject heat and pressure gauges on all local hot-water wells, “so they know immediately whether we are tapping the resource.” Colorado law and new regulations in Archuleta County protect existing geothermal users in case of damage to their resource.
Chris Gallegos, who administers the town’s geothermal heating district, says it’s “an unknown” whether Smith’s project would impair the existing users. “Through the test wells we should be able to determine whether the extraction of that heat would affect us or not,” he says.
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed a geothermal bond bill May 30, providing $1.98 million in state funding and matching the Energy Department’s investment in geothermal energy exploration at Pagosa Springs. The project, which demonstrates Colorado’s strong support for geothermal energy development, leverages a $3.8 million award from the Department for evaluating and exploring the geothermal resource potential at Pagosa Springs.
Pagosa Springs has long been recognized as a potential target for geothermal energy development, based on surface evidence and assessments such as geophysical exploration conducted by the Colorado School of Mines. The Pagosa Verde project proposes a cost-effective, phased approach for locating and evaluating the viability of geothermal resources in the southern end of the Pagosa Springs area. The project will assess the potential for power production as well as direct use applications for residential, industrial and other purposes.
The collaborative framework at Pagosa Verde provides a replicable model of public-private partnership and grassroots support. The company has engaged the local community to garner support and promote future geothermal development that could create jobs and generate clean, renewable energy for the region. Landowners, city and county officials, utilities, and private investors worked with the Colorado School of Mines and the Colorado Energy Office to demonstrate the value of this project and its vital role in bringing geothermal energy development to the state.
Learn more about how geothermal energy systems work through this new Energy 101 video.
From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Jessica Maher):
In most buildings, the center of heating operations is called the boiler room, but the three-story Mirasol Phase II building is unlike most buildings, and is the first of its kind in Loveland. There are no water boilers, no air conditioning units. Instead, the 60 units in the building are heated and cooled by a geothermal exchange system and hot water to faucets comes from a solar collector system on the roof…
So how does it work? Temperatures below the earth’s surface remain unchanged throughout the year. By capturing that water and pumping it through a buried loop system, a heat exchange either cools the water down or heats it up. There are five closed loop heat exchange systems located in the basement of the Mirasol Phase II building, and the thermostat inside each unit dictates the action of the heat exchange…
Geothermal exchange systems can also be used to heat and cool homes but carry a hefty price tag, largely because of the need for wells to access the underground water. At Mirasol, 36 holes 500 feet deep were drilled where the parking lot is currently located, according to Joe Boeckenstedt of Pinkard Construction Co., which was the general contractor for the Phase II project.
Of the $13.4 million to build Mirasol Phase II, the solar panels and the geothermal exchange cost about $460,000, according to Loveland Housing Authority maintenance supervisor Bill Rumley, who said the agency expects to see a return on investment for the alternative energies within a decade.
The Town of Pagosa Springs council met in executive session with town attorney Bob Cole last Thursday, Dec. 19, with the topic of conversation centering on matters involving funding for a possible geothermal electric utility. According to town manager David Mitchem, council gave Cole instruction during the executive session. Mitchem said that the executive session did, “move the process forward,” but that no decisions were made at the meeting. A decision, Mitchem indicated, is expected in the next three weeks to a month…
Mayor Ross Aragon said the geothermal utility discussed Dec. 19 was the same contract the county [Archuletta] earmarked money for, and said the town and county have been and are expected to continue to be on par with each other in contributing to the project.
In 2013, both the town and the county pledged $65,000 toward research on geothermal resources and the possibility of using a geothermal resource to create power. That exploration work is being done by Pagosa Verde, LLC, headed by Jerry Smith.
Chaffee County commissioners passed a resolution approving the county’s new geothermal 1041 regulations and lifting the moratorium on geothermal development in the county during their meeting Tuesday. The county commissioners heard and incorporated comments from Chaffee County attorney Jenny Davis on the proposed geothermal 1041 regulations. Her recommendations changed some of the recommendations made to county commissioners by the Chaffee County Planning Commission.
In July the planning commissioners asked the county commissioners to postpone any decision on their draft 1041 regulations for “Use of Geothermal Resources for the Commercial Production of Electricity.”
At the county commissioners’ Sept. 3 hearing on the proposed 1041 regulations, commissioners instructed staff members to incorporate most of the Chaffee County Planning Commission recommendations.
The Planning Commission had recommended that the 1041 regulations not govern surface uses related to geothermal development, leaving surface uses to be addressed through a county land-use change permit. Davis recommend the 1041 regulations include surface uses and not require the applicants to go through both the 1041 and the land-use change processes. Having an applicant go through both “would be a redundant process,” Davis said. Having the 1041 process address the above-ground uses would allow for more flexibility in a process tailored for geothermal projects.
Davis also recommended the commissioners keep existing language regarding use of geothermal resources in the environmental impact analysis section of the application process and not limit those uses to “legal uses.” With a domestic well, the owner has no legal right to the water’s heat, only the water itself, Fred Henderson, chief scientific officer for Mt. Princeton Geothermal, said previously. People using heat from geothermal water without a legal right to the heat can change their well permits to define and allow use of the heat, he said. Some businesses, such as bed and breakfasts or vacation rentals, may have used the heat from their wells for years, not realizing they need to change their permit to authorize that use, Don Reimer, Chaffee County development director, said previously.
Leaving the language open to all uses allows the commissioners to hear comment from all users, Davis said.
Henderson spoke in favor of keeping the change that requires a notification for exploratory drilling to a depth of less 2,500 feet, and the commissioners concurred.
Jeanne Younghaus with Chaffee County League of Women Voters, said the league has concerns about companies drilling and leaving without cleaning up their exploration.
In other business, Chaffee County commissioners instructed staff to draft a resolution that would amend Nestlé Waters North America Inc.’s 1041 and special land use permits to allow them to switch their augmentation agreement from the city of Aurora to the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District.
Chaffee County commissioners instructed staff Tuesday to incorporate most of the Chaffee County Planning Commission’s recommendations for the county’s draft geothermal 1041 regulations. During their Tuesday regular meeting, county commissioners also voted to continue hearings on the 1041 regulations for “Use of Geothermal Resources for the Commercial Production of Electricity.”
Commissioners continued the hearing so staff could gather more information about existing use of geothermal resources and to allow time for the League of Women Voters of Chaffee County to review the recommendations.
The commissioners did not make a decision on a recommendation to add the words “legal uses” before “geothermal resources” in the environmental impact analysis section of the application process.
With a domestic well, the owner has no legal right to the water’s heat – only the water itself, Fred Henderson, chief scientific officer for Mt. Princeton Geothermal, said. People using the hot water illegally can change their permits to define and allow use of the heat, he said.
Some businesses, such as bed and breakfasts or vacation rentals, may have used the hot water from their wells for years not knowing they need to change their permit to authorize their use, Don Reimer, Chaffee County development director, said.
The original language of the draft 1041 regulations did not specify “legal” geothermal resources because its vagueness could offer more protection to county residents who use a geothermal resource, Jenny Davis, county attorney, said.
In some cases people may have used the resource before a process to define and authorize the use existed, she said. If people who rely on the hot water can change their well permits and make their use legal “without breaking their backs,” Chaffee County Commissioner Frank Holman said he would “like to place some onus” on the users to do so.
He asked staff to get more information, such as what is involved in the process, how much it costs and how long it takes.
Of the Planning Commission’s more than 20 recommended changes, most consisted of small changes such as correcting errors and clarifying language, Reimer said.
The substantial change recommendations the commissioners instructed staff to add to the draft include:
• Making all surface use go through a county land-use change permit, instead of addressing the uses in the 1041 process.
• Making exploration going less than 2,500 feet deep require only a notice to the county and no decision.
• Allowing for the appeal of decisions made by the director on activity notices to the board of commissioners.
County commissioners told staff not to incorporate a recommendation allowing for a discharging system. County commissioners started public hearings on the geothermal 1041 regulations in May. During a July 30 public hearing on the proposed new land-use code, planning commissioners decided to ask county commissioners to hold any decisions on the 1041 regulations until the Planning Commission could review and comment on them. The county commissioners agreed Aug. 6 to hold any decision on the regulations and continued their public hearing. The county commissioners will hold their next hearing on the draft regulations Oct. 1. “We’re really close,” Commissioner Dave Potts said.
The new geothermal heating and cooling system at the Colorado state Capitol, consisting of water pumped from two wells drilled into the Arapahoe Aquifer more than 850 feet underground, is being brought on line this week and should bring hefty savings on utility bills for the Capitol, officials said Wednesday…
The open-loop geothermal system will save an estimated $100,000 in heating and cooling costs in the first year. The savings should escalate each following year by 3 percent…
Gov. John Hickenlooper said the project will make the Colorado Capitol “the first LEED-certified capitol building in the country.” Hickenlooper listed a handful of reasons for the new system. “Several things — one, it (the Capitol) needs it, and there is a high return on the investment and resources,” he said. “Two, it is symbolic. Third, in terms of branding, the next time we are going out for Ardent Mills or another company to move here, it becomes part of that attraction to get people to move here.”
Area residents expressed concerns during a public hearing Tuesday about the amount of regulation Chaffee County’s proposed geothermal 1041 regulations would impose.
The draft 1041 regulations would create a special permit-driven process that gives the county some power to regulate use of geothermal resources for commercial production of electricity, Dennis Giese, Chaffee County commissioner, said. Some residents feared that too little regulation in parts of the draft would leave the county open to adverse situations. The county should protect itself, Melanie Roth, Buena Vista, said.
One section of the draft regulations requires the applicant to submit “documentation of the applicant’s financial and technical capability to develop and operate the proposed project, including a description of the applicant’s experience developing and operating similar projects.”
The commissioners discussed removing or changing the language. “Why is that our business?” Giese asked.
The consultant the county hired to draft the regulations, Barbra Green, partner at Sullivan Green Seavy LLC, said a company may come in and start geothermal electricity production that it cannot finish. If the business then just leaves the county or goes bankrupt, the county could end up having to clean up the project and restore the land.
“I would rather have a pool (of money) or bond to reclaim the land,” Commissioner Frank Holman said.
Whether the county addresses the issue by requiring the applicant to prove feasibility or with a bond, the commissioners should work up front to protect the county, Roth said.
Commissioners also discussed how the draft language could regulate geothermal exploration drilling. At a May 7 work session commissioners gave direction to explore language that would require, subject to some regulations, an activity notice from the county for exploration drilling, Green said. The state engineer’s office applies regulations to the drilling of exploration holes.
Cheryl Brown-Kovacic, representing the League of Women Voters of Chaffee County, said the county should have regulations for all phases of geothermal development, including exploration.
“I have some concerns with no permitting required for exploration,” Syd Schieren, Salida, said.
The regulations should have clear language defining and separating exploration and exploration drilling from production drilling, Green said.
However, during the public comment period, some speakers expressed concerns that the draft overregulated.
“After having read (the) draft regulations, we don’t need them,” John “Hank” Held, principal of Mt. Princeton Geothermal LLC, said. The regulations proposed in the draft duplicate state and federal regulations and “are overly restrictive,” he said.
Held said he thinks he has already missed the drilling season for this year, so the commissioners should take their time to make sure they get the regulations right.
The commissioners made a motion to hold the next public hearing on the draft geothermal 1041 regulations during their July 2 meeting. Commissioner Dave Potts said he would like to have the Chaffee County Planning Commission review the draft before the next hearing. Green said she should have the next version of the draft finished by June 21.
When developing Chaffee County’s draft geothermal 1041 regulations, the consultant aimed to support geothermal development while protecting property rights, as the county requested, officials said at a special work session Tuesday. The 1041 regulations, when passed by the commissioners, will govern the use of geothermal resources for commercial production of electricity.
The consultant who drafted the regulations, Barbra Green, partner at Sullivan Green Seavy LLC, said the draft contains flexible language that will give the county tools to handle all applications, from simple to controversial. “No one else in the state has geothermal regulations yet,” Green said. The process “is not easy and never perfect,” but she said she wants to talk through the draft with the county, hear feedback and get the regulations as close to the goals of the county as possible.
The county’s draft geothermal 1041 regulations create a “permit-driven” process, Mary Keyes, Sullivan Green Seavy LLC paralegal, said. Unless staff makes a “finding of no impact,” any use of geothermal for commercial electricity will require a 1041 permit, she said.
Chaffee County Commissioner Dave Potts asked when a project would get a finding of no impact. Green said she did not know how a geothermal project could actually get a finding of no impact. To do so, the project would have to cause no change on the site or surrounding properties in a number of areas. She said the draft has the no-impact language because in the future new technology or processes could possibly have no impact.
The draft regulations include a mandatory pre-application meeting, Green said. Such meetings help all parties involved, by getting everyone on the same page, clarifying and answering questions about the application process. The meeting lets applicants determine their responsibilities and how to ensure their applications have everything they need up front instead of dealing with it later, she said.
Once staff declares the application complete, the information goes to all reviewing agencies or consultants determined necessary, Keyes said. Then staff will compile all findings from the review agencies and consultants into a staff report prior to the public hearing for the application, she said.
After the walkthrough of the process, the commissioners, consultant, county staff and others attending the meeting addressed areas of the draft they thought had issues or conflicts, and discussed possible solutions.
The county will have to decide if it wants the drilling of exploration holes to fall into the definition of geothermal 1041 regulations, and therefore require a 1041 application, Green said. Hank Held and Fred Henderson, both of Mt. Princeton Geothermal LLC, spoke during public comments, saying the county should consider less regulation, not only on the drilling of exploration holes, but also on the entire geothermal 1041 regulations. Held said the county’s draft geothermal 1041 regulations duplicate both state and federal regulations. In cases such as drilling exploration holes, a company already must go through a regulatory process at the state level that could cover the need for regulation, he said.
Green said in some cases the county has different standards than the federal or state regulations, so it may appear the county has redundant regulations.
Paul Morgan, with the Colorado Geological Survey, warned commissioners that the west side of the Upper Arkansas River Valley has a large fault line running along it. He said, “I don’t think (county geothermal 1041 regulations) should have an option of a (finding of no impact). If an earthquake happens near geothermal development, “someone will sue the county,” he said.
The county will hold a public hearing to start the process of approving the draft geothermal 1041 regulations during the May 21 regular commissioners meeting in Buena Vista, Jenny Davis, Chaffee County attorney, said. While the public hearing will start the process, the commissioners do not have to make a decision then, she said. Green will take comments and recommendations from the commissioners after the public hearing to work any requested changes into the draft document, she said.
To develop geothermal 1041 regulations, Chaffee County partnered with Archuleta and Ouray counties and Pagosa Springs to hire the consultant for the process, Davis said previously. After the partners received a grant, Chaffee County’s portion of the contract for the consultant comes to $2,937.50, Don Reimer, Chaffee County development director, said previously.
The county will have the most current version of its geothermal 1041 draft regulations on its website, chaffeecounty.org
The 800-acre Mount Princeton geothermal lease was recently terminated for nonpayment of rent. The lease owner, 3E Geothermal LLC in Colorado Springs, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Young Life, which also owns the Frontier Ranch youth camp on the flanks of Mount Princeton. The Bureau of Land Management Colorado leased the parcel to 3E Geothermal during its November 2010 oil, gas and geothermal lease sale. The lease was issued Jan. 1, 2011. As reported at that time by The Mountain Mail, Young Life officials made clear their intention to use the lease to protect the camping experience at Frontier Ranch by preventing development that would affect the natural beauty of the area.
Denise Adamic, public affairs officer for the Bureau of Land Management Royal Gorge Field Office in Cañon City, said, “Rent needs to be received every year by the Office of Natural Resources Revenue by the anniversary date … the date the lease went into effect.”
Adamic said, when the rental amount of $2,400 was not received by Jan. 1, officials with the Office of Natural Resources Revenue issued a notice to 3E Geothermal giving the company 15 days to pay. When the company did not respond to that notice, Adamic said officials issued a second notice giving the company 45 days from the anniversary date to pay the rental amount plus a 10-percent late fee. When 3E Geothermal failed to pay within the 45-day period, Adamic said, the lease was terminated.
Adamic said the company then had 30 days from the time they received the termination letter to appeal the termination to the Interior Board of Land Appeals. Terry Swanson, Young Life vice president of communications, said failure to pay the lease was “an administrative oversight” by Young Life that is “being corrected.”
Adamic said, if 3E Geothermal loses the appeal, the company would have to place the winning bid at another lease sale in order to retain the lease. BLM officials are “reviewing what, if anything, we will do with the area in question. We may or may not offer it for lease again,” Adamic said. She added that BLM officials are investigating whether or not a new lease-sale nomination would be required to offer the parcel for lease again.
Adamic said the BLM had not received a plan of development for the lease and that 3E Geothermal had not begun any ground-disturbing work on developing the lease.
This geothermal lease was the first sold in Colorado since the 1980s.
Chaffee County officials released the draft version of their geothermal 1041 regulations and posted them on their website Thursday, in response to the release of draft regulations from partner Ouray County. To develop geothermal 1041 regulations, Chaffee County partnered with Archuleta and Ouray counties and Pagosa Springs to hire a consultant for the process, Jenny Davis, Chaffee County attorney, said.
With Ouray County releasing its draft regulations, which Davis said she presumes “are similar” to Chaffee County’s, “we’ve decided to just go ahead and release what we have.” The draft regulations “are subject to change,” and she said she thinks the consultant, Barb Green, will give the county a revised draft soon.
After the partners received a grant, Chaffee County’s portion of the contract for the consultant comes to $2,937.50, Don Reimer, Chaffee County development director, said.
County staff gave Green a list of concerns the county wanted to be included in its regulations, Reimer said. The county asked that the regulations contain clear language for development criteria; not conflict with state and federal regulations; protect the land use on adjacent and nearby properties; and protect water quality and rights.
Chaffee County currently has 1041 regulations for “Efficient Utilization of Municipal and Industrial Water Projects,” “Site Selection of New Domestic Water and Sewage Treatment Systems” and “Extension of Existing Domestic Water and Sewage Treatment Systems,” which the county adopted in 1991 and revised in 2003.
In 2003 the county also adopted 1041 regulations for “Site Selection and Development of New Communities” and “Regulations for Development in Areas Containing or Having a Significant Impact Upon Natural Resources of Statewide Importance.”
Reimer said, in his 10 years working at the county, only two 1041 applications did not get a statement of “no impact,” the Nestlé Waters application and the Pueblo West application for Hill Ranch, both of which went through the full process.
The draft regulations would prevent commercial electricity production using geothermal resources without first obtaining either a permit or statement of no impact. The regulations would apply to commercial electricity production on public and private land in unincorporated Chaffee County. The draft regulations would define and establish general regulatory provisions, designate of commercial geothermal energy production as a matter of state interest, and establish an application and review process.
The application process would consist of a pre-application conference; application submittal, determination of completeness, determination of eligibility for a statement of no impact and a permit review process.
The review process would include the Planning Commission and county staff.
Chaffee County officials also changed the date of the work session at which regulations will be discussed to 1:30 p.m. May 7 because the consultant could not make the original April 25 meeting, Davis said. The county will have the most current version of its geothermal 1041 draft regulations on its website, chaffeecounty.org.
Here’s the release from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Ted Kowalski):
The State of Colorado, as well as the other cooperating partners in the Colorado River Supply and Demand Basin Study (“Colorado River Basin Study” or “Basin Study”), were presented today with the prestigious “Partners in Conservation Award” by the Department of the Interior. This award was presented by Deputy Secretary David Hayes in recognition of the cooperation between these different entities on one of the most pressing natural resources issues in the Unites States–the future of the Colorado River basin.
The Colorado River Basin Study is the most comprehensive effort to date to quantify and address future supply and demand imbalances in the Colorado River Basin. The Basin Study evaluates the reliability of the water dependent resources, and also outlines potential options and strategies to meet or reduce imbalances that are consistent with the existing legal framework governing the use and operation of the Colorado River. To date, the Basin Study has published a number of interim reports and appendices, and the final report of the Basin Study is scheduled to be published by the end of November, 2012.
Jennifer Gimbel, Director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, and Ted Kowalski, Chief of the Interstate, Federal and Water Information Section of the Colorado Water Conservation Board accepted the award on behalf of the State of Colorado. “The Basin Study reflects the cooperative spirit in which the Colorado River Basin States have worked since the adoption of the 2007 Interim Guidelines,” Gimbel said.“Colorado and the other Basin States, the tribes, the federal government, and the many diverse stakeholders must continue to work together in order to address the difficult water imbalances facing the southwestern United States in the next half century. It is clear that there are no silver bullets, but rather we must explore and develop multiple options and strategies in order to meet our projected future water supply/demand imbalance.”
Here’s a guest commentary about the report, running in The Denver Post (Alice Madden/Peter C. Frumhoff). Here’s an excerpt:
Electricity generation from coal and nuclear plants requires water — a lot of water compared to other fuel sources — to cool the steam they produce to make electricity. In Colorado, coal plants consumed some 80,000 acre-feet of water for cooling in 2008. That’s enough water to supply the city of Boulder for four years, or Denver for four months.
Colorado’s water consumption rates in energy production were highlighted in a recent report of the Energy and Water in a Warming World Initiative, a research collaboration between the Union of Concerned Scientists and a team of more than a dozen national scientists, including local experts at the University of Colorado, National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Western Resource Advocates.
For most conventional coal plants, the bottom line is this: To keep the lights on, keep the water coming. It’s easy to ignore this dependence when there’s plenty of water. But in a water-constrained future, is heavy reliance on coal the best choice when we have smart water energy choices?
Although extracting natural gas via hydraulic fracturing is placing growing demands on water resources, an efficient natural gas plant consumes far less water than a coal plant. And some, like the Front Range plant in Colorado Springs, cool with air instead of water.
By contrast, wind and solar photovoltaics use virtually no water, making them smart energy choices for water-constrained states. Fortunately, Colorado has had impressive growth in both. That’s thanks in part to the Renewable Portfolio Standard law that requires investor-owned utilities Xcel Energy and Black Hills to produce at least 30 percent of the energy they generate from renewable sources by 2020, a goal both companies will meet easily. The remaining utilities, which provide about 40 percent of the state’s energy, must only meet a 10 percent RPS and rely heavily on coal.
Across the country, water demand from power plants is combining with pressure from growing populations and other needs and straining water resources—especially during droughts and heat waves:
• The 2011 drought in Texas created tension among farmers, cities, and power plants across the state. At least one plant had to cut its output, and some plants had to pipe in water from new sources. The state power authority warned that several thousand megawatts of electrical capacity might go offline if the drought persists into 2012.
• As drought hit the Southeast in 2007, water providers from Atlanta to Raleigh urged residents to cut their water use. Power plants felt the heat as well. In North Carolina, customers faced blackouts as water woes forced Duke Energy to cut output at its G.G. Allen and Riverbend coal plants on the Catawba River. Meanwhile the utility was scrambling to keep the water intake system for its McGuire nuclear plant underwater. In Alabama, the Browns Ferry nuclear plant had to drastically cut its output (as it has in three of the last five years) to avoid exceeding the temperature limit on discharge water and killing fish in the Tennessee River.
• A 2006 heat wave forced nuclear plants in the Midwest to reduce their output when customers needed power most. At the Prairie Island plant in Minnesota, for example, the high temperature of the Mississippi River forced the plant to cut electricity generation by more than half.
• In the arid Southwest, power plants have been contributing to the depletion of aquifers, in some cases without even reporting their water use.
• On New York’s Hudson River, the cooling water intakes of the Indian Point nuclear plant kill millions of fish annually, including endangered shortnose sturgeon. This hazard to aquatic life now threatens the plant as well. Because operators have not built a new cooling system to protect fish, state regulators have not yet approved the licenses the operators need to keep the plant’s two reactors running past 2013 and 2015.
• Proposed power plants have also taken hits over water needs. Local concerns about water use have scuttled planned facilities in Arizona, Idaho, Virginia, and elsewhere. Developers of proposed water-cooled concentrating solar plants in California and Nevada have run into opposition, driving them toward dry cooling instead.
This report—the first on power plant water use and related water stress from the Energy and Water in a Warming World initiative—is the first systematic assessment of both the effects of power plant cooling on water resources across the United States and the quality of information available to help public- and private-sector decision makers make water-smart energy choices.
Our analysis starts by profiling the water use characteristics of virtually every electricity generator in the United States. Then, applying new analytical approaches, we conservatively estimate the water use of those generators in 2008, looking across the range of fuels, power plant technologies, and cooling systems. We then use those results to assess the stress that power plant water use placed on water systems across the country. We also compare our results with those reported by power plant operators to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) for 2008.
We examine both the withdrawal and consumptionof freshwater. Withdrawal is the total amount of water a power plant takes in from a source such as a river, lake, or aquifer, some of which is returned. Consumption is the amount lost to evaporation during the cooling process. Withdrawal is important for several reasons. Water intake systems can trap fish and other aquatic wildlife.
Water withdrawn for cooling but not consumed returns to the environment at a higher temperature, potentially harming fish and other wildlife. And when power plants tap groundwater for cooling, they can deplete aquifers critical for meeting many different needs. Consumption is important because it too reduces the amount of water available for other uses, including sustaining ecosystems.
While our analysis focuses on the effects of water use by power plants today, we also consider how conditions are likely to change in the future. In the short run, our choices for what kind of power plants we build can contribute to freshwater-supply stress (by consigning an imbalanced share of the available water to power plant use) and can affect water quality (by increasing water temperatures to levels that harm local ecosystems, for example). Over a longer time frame, those choices can fuel climate change, which in turn may also affect water quantity (through drought and other extreme weather events) and quality (by raising the temperature of lakes, streams, and rivers). Population growth and rising demand for water also promise to worsen water stress in many regions of the country already under stress from power plant use and other uses.
Here’s the link to the web page where you can order a copy. Here’s the pitch:
The 75-Year History of the Colorado River District:
A Story About the Embattled Colorado River and the Growth of the West
The Colorado River is one of America’s wildest rivers in terms of terrain and natural attributes, but is actually modest in terms of water quantity – the Mississippi surpasses the Colorado’s annual flow in a matter of days. Yet the Colorado provides some or all of the domestic water for some 35 million Southwesterners, most of whom live outside of the river’s natural course in rapidly growing desert cities. It fully or partially irrigates four-million acres of desert land that produces much of America’s winter fruits and vegetables. It also provides hundreds of thousands of people with recreational opportunities. To put a relatively small river like the Colorado to work, however, has resulted in both miracles and messes: highly controlled use and distribution systems with multiplying problems and conflicts to work out, historically and into the future.
Water Wranglers is the story of the Colorado River District’s first seventy-five years, using imagination, political shrewdness, legal facility, and appeals to moral rightness beyond legal correctness to find balance among the various entities competing for the use of the river’s water. It is ultimately the story of a minority seeking equity, justice, and respect under democratic majority rule – and willing to give quite a lot to retain what it needs.
The Colorado River District was created in 1937 with a dual mission: to protect the interests of the state of Colorado in the river’s basin and to defend local water interests in Western Colorado – a region that produces 70 percent of the river’s total water but only contains 10 percent of the state’s population.
The twice-suspended project had been set to resume this fall, but new drilling plans have yet to be finalized as September draws to a close, and remain in the works…
The prospect of tapping cheap, clean and renewable energy in underground Aspen water was encouraged by a 2008 city study, which found that water below town may be as warm as 140 degrees. Water warmer than 100 degrees could be used to heat homes or offices.
If the Prockter drilling site is successful, city officials have said they would want to find a second test drilling site before attempting to use the geothermal energy.
The Northern San Luis Valley Conservation Roundtable will present an educational event about local geothermal resources Oct. 4 in Saguache and Oct. 5 near Crestone.
“We’re in Hot Water – Geothermal in the Northern San Luis Valley” will be presented at 6:30 p.m. both nights – at the Saguache Road & Bridge meeting room, 305 Third St. and Baca Grande POA Hall, 68575 CR T.
Paul Morgan, senior geothermal geologist with Colorado Geological Survey, will speak about geothermal resources and possible resource development in the Northern San Luis Valley.
Topics include how geology, water sources and geothermal resources interrelate, Colorado Geological Survey research relating to geothermal leasing in the San Luis Valley, and other Colorado Geological Survey research in the area.
Morgan will answer questions during and following the presentation.
Refreshments will be served. More information is at 719.221.8434 or email@example.com.
…two recent events highlighted the growing sense that Pagosa Country is edging closer towards making that geothermal resource the centerpiece of a larger economic development initiative.
Late last month, several community members made their way to Denver to make a presentation at the Geothermal Working Group meeting, sponsored by the Colorado Energy Office (previously known as the Governor’s Energy Office). In fact, Pagosa Country featured three speakers at the meeting out of a total 19 presenters, providing substantial representation for geothermal issues in the area…
“One problem,” [Archuleta County Commissioner Michael Whiting] told SUN staff last week, “is the lack of capital,” stating that it is difficult for rural communities to secure government dollars needed to develop geothermal resources. “The problem is parochialism,” Whiting continued, referring to attitudes that reject, or are unable to grasp, the potential of geothermal as an important resource for energy and economic development…
In essence, Starr’s presentation implied that, not only could local governments identify resources (geothermal) for state interests, but, after having done so, could apply for state funds to develop those resources. Starr’s presentation went on to show that the next provision of that section states, “(2) (a) The department of local affairs shall oversee and coordinate the provision of technical assistance and provide financial assistance as may be authorized by law.”[…]
local businessman Jerome Smith (founder of Pagosa Verde, LLC., a company currently engaged in researching the energy-producing potential of the local geothermal aquifer) presented on a subject Whiting had previously touched on: The challenges businesses faced acquiring needed funding for geothermal projects. As a solution, Smith spoke about the importance of an alliance of geothermal communities in the Region 9 Economic Development District of Southwest Colorado and throughout the state. Smith also spoke to the opportunities for financing geothermal development and power generation.
Here’s the link to the registration page. Here’s the description of the event (Meg Meyer):
The 2012 Colorado Water Congress Summer Conference will include water and energy interests once again as we combine forces and explore areas of common interest. The theme of the conference is The Balance of Power. We will spin the concept several different ways as we look at the balance of political power, the balance of governance, and the balance of energy and water sources.
Immediately preceding the CWC Summer Conference, the Colorado Coal and Power Generation group will hold an all-day event at the Holiday Inn in Craig on Tuesday, August 14th which will include a golf tournament and evening barbeque.
In addition, the Interim Water Resources Review Committee will meet in Steamboat, Tuesday afternoon, for their first substantive meeting to prepare for the 2013 legislative session.
The CWC Summer Conference will be held August 15th through August17th at the Sheraton in Steamboat Springs.
We will have three workshops on Wednesday morning covering topics of drought and current weather conditions, public trust, and endangered species. We will try something a little different this year with the conference kicking off with a luncheon on Wednesday. General Sessions will follow on Wednesday afternoon. An evening open public forum will held on Wednesday at 7:30 pm (attendance is optional for water and energy professionals).
We will have networking breakfasts on Thursday or Friday – a light continental breakfast will be served, but no formal speaker. The hotel restaurant or other local venues are available for those that prefer a heartier breakfast. General Sessions will be held on Thursday from 9:00 to 12:00. On Thursday afternoon, we will offer a couple of tours or you may want to use this time to catch up on other business. The POND Committee is also planning outdoor activities. We will have a reception on Thursday evening at 5:00. The Friday morning format will be similar to Thursday and the conference will conclude with a box lunch.
Pagosa Springs, Colorado is famous for the hydrothermal activity in its groundwater system, though the system is poorly understood. At present, the hot water flow is used for both tourism and the heating of some buildings, but further expansion of the springs’ usage could reduce the effective energy produced in both cases. To better understand the nature and extent of the hydrothermal flow, several geophysical methods were designed and implemented, including: Gravity, magnetics, electromagnetics, seismic, Direct Current (DC) resistivity, and ground penetrating radar (GPR), all of which were tied in with global positioning system (GPS) data. The surveys were designed to determine the structural geology, the locations of water sources, and the direction and magnitude of that flow. These geophysical surveys were employed to give students a better understanding of geophysical methods as well as assisting Pagosa Springs in learning more about the complexion of the springs so as to better utilize the hydrothermal energy without damaging, and hopefully improving, the existing infrastructures.
The data of the geophysical methods was processed, interpreted and integrated by students to attain a plausible explanation of the results and the geothermal system the results describe. At the Stevens Airport and the Barn 3, a survey site far to the south of town, it was shown that the Eightmile Mesa Fault, as well as nearby faults, likely penetrate into the basement geology which could provide a conduit for deep hot water transport. At another site three kilometers south of Pagosa where there were geothermal springs cooler than the Pagosa springs, the data entertains the possibility that there is water flowing from the ridge to the east toward the river to the west. The data also shows that there is likely a fault to the east of the Pagosa Mother Spring. The Pagosa Mother Spring is the main spring in the town that was measured to be at least 1,000 feet deep. Closer to the Mother Spring, on the field southwest and east of the river, the flow of water in the subsurface near the spring was surveyed. Two conduits were expressed in the data: one running east-west and the other going north-south. Finally, one line indicated the possibility of two additional faults north of Pagosa, though further investigation is necessary to better define these results. These integrations can be used to sum up a plausible explanation of the hydrothermal system, however, there are several studies that could still be done in this area to better understand the hydrothermal system as well as hopefully improve the current geothermal usage in Pagosa.
Earlier this month, the Colorado School of Mines Geophysics Department (CSM) released results of research recently conducted throughout the area. After spending two weeks in Pagosa Country this past May, studying characteristics of the area’s geothermal aquifer, a team of CSM students and faculty members provided a lengthy report on findings during that visit.
While not quite as exciting as the almost certain discovery of the Higgs boson that was announced on Tuesday, the report provided some interesting suggestions regarding geothermal resources in the area. Primary among the findings was a suggestion of geothermal resources far more extensive than had been previously postulated.
That report indicated the discovery of three previously unknown faults north, south and west of the “Mother” spring (the Great Pagosa Hot Springs that provides water for local bathers and heating systems).
“First, the seismic results from both the Stevens Airport and the Barn 3 (south of town) line show that the Eightmile Mesa Fault, and possibly other faults nearby, penetrates the basement material,” the report reads. This discovery shows that faults in the area can penetrate the basement (several layers of strified rock that sit atop the water) and provide a conduit for deep and hot water transport.
The Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership (GGP) was recently awarded a $25,000 grant from the Laura Jane Musser Fund to contribute to the implementation of the greenhouse initiative in Centennial Park. The Musser Foundation encourages the collaborative and participatory efforts among citizens in rural communities to strengthen their towns in civic areas including economic development, arts and humanities, public space improvement and education…
The GGP aims to:
1) create a center for lifelong education as well as for advanced study in agriculture and renewable technology;
2) provide a test site for the commercialization of year-round organic crops at high altitude using renewable energy;
3) provide affordable, organic, locally grown food for people and businesses; and
4) provide year-round community gardens.
The greenhouse domes will be built in Centennial Park on the banks of the San Juan River. This park will invite locals and visitors alike to pause, enjoy the natural setting, pursue environmental education, experience sustainable agriculture, and appreciate renewable energy technologies.
Here’s the link to the announcement from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
Geothermal Energy Leasing Environmental Assessment
The Bureau of Land Management welcomes your comment on an environmental assessment (EA) to amend the 1991 BLM San Luis Resource Management Plan (RMP) for geothermal energy leasing on BLM-managed lands. The Colorado Geological Survey recognizes the potential for geothermal energy in the San Luis Valley. Currently, there are no geothermal energy leases on BLM lands in the Valley.
Public comment on this EA opens March 12, 2012 and closes April 10, 2012. BLM is also hosting two open house meetings: Tuesday, March 20th from 4 – 7 p.m at the Saguache County Road and Bridge Building and Wednesday, March 21st from 4 – 7 p.m. at Adams State College (McDaniel Hall)
Thanks to the the Associated Press via The Denver Post for heads up.
The city’s open space board unanimously voted Thursday evening to allow drilling from April 1 through May 25 in the city-owned parking lot of the Prockter Open Space. The lot is across Neale Avenue from Herron Park and sits near the north bank of the Roaring Fork River…
In November and early December, drillers reached 1,003 feet underground without hitting any water. They had anticipated reaching water at 1,000 feet down. McDonell said they now expect to hit water before 1,500 feet. “Our experts tell us we’re pretty close,” [city environmental programs manager Lauren McDonell] said…
City Council is holding another public meeting on Feb. 27. The council does not have to approve any aspects of the project, but McDonell and city officials want to give neighbors ample opportunity to comment.
Fred Henderson of Hendco Services and Paul Morgan of Colorado Geological Survey recently completed a study and issued a report providing new data about the Poncha Hot Springs geothermal resource.
The report lists several conclusions based upon information compiled during the study:
– The study area contains the highest “thermal gradient anomaly” measured to date in Colorado.
– Geological fault structures, including the main east-west Poncha Hot Springs fault and subsidiary faults to the north, appear to control the upwelling and flow of geothermal water from a deep geothermal source.
– Previous geothermometry studies indicate the possible presence of a deep, high-temperature reservoir.
– Scientific observations suggest existence of a deep, high-temperature reservoir capable of producing electricity in significant amounts.
– Findings support conducting a magnetotelluric survey followed by one or two 1,000-1,500-foot-deep thermal gradient holes to further validate and locate a potential deep geothermal reservoir.
With excavation and construction for the 30,000-square-foot building set to begin this spring, museum officials are trying to determine if they can tap a geothermal energy source to make the structure more efficient and environmentally friendly…
In the case of the art museum site, the contractor is drilling down to about 425 feet. Drilling is expected to take a week, and contractors should know within a few weeks whether there is any geothermal potential, according to museum officials.
“The use of geothermal technology is a key tactic in our overall efforts to construct an environmentally sensitive and sustainable building,” museum director Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson said in a statement. “We look forward to reporting on our findings from this initial testing, and on our overall progress toward these goals.”
Here’s a guest commentary written by Eric Kuhn, David Modeer and Fred Krupp running in The Denver Post. The trio are issuing a call to arms of sort, asking for input for the Colorado River Basin Study. Here’s an excerpt:
Management of the Colorado River is a complex balancing act between the diverse interests of United States and Mexico, tribes, the seven basin states, individual water users, stakeholders, and communities. The challenges posed by new growth and climate change may dwarf anything we faced in the past. Instead of staring into the abyss, the water users, agencies, and stakeholder groups that make managing the Colorado River responsibly their business are working together, using the best science available to define the problem, and looking for solutions.
We’re calling our inquiry the Colorado River Basin Study, and we want your help. As Colorado River management professionals, we have a lot of knowledge and ideas, but we know that we don’t have them all. We want ideas from the public, from you, but we need your input by February 1. You can submit your suggestions by completing the online form at: http://on.doi.gov/uvhkUi.
The big question we need to answer is: What are the reasonable water management options and strategies that will provide water for people, but also maintain a healthy river system? We don’t believe there’s a single silver bullet that will resolve all of our challenges. We want to continue to explore the benefits and costs of every possibility, from conservation to desalination to importing water from other regions.
The West was built on innovation and hard work, and that spirit is still strong. Our landscapes and communities are unparalleled in their beauty, resilience, and character. The economic well-being of our rural and urban communities in the Colorado River basin is inextricably linked to Colorado River and its environmental health.
That’s why we are asking for the public’s input to help us craft a study showing a path forward that supplies our communities with the water they need to thrive and protects the health of the Colorado River-and the ecosystems and economies it supports.
Lee Robinson of Flint Eagle hopes to find water in the Rio Grande Rift that’s hot enough to use for heating or energy. The concept of going that deep is a relatively new one. Most geothermal resources that are used today are much closer to the earth’s surface.
Since he first approached the town of Gypsum, the permitting has become more involved than initially predicted. Mineral and water rights had to be determined first, and now Robinson is working with the Department of Water Resources for permits that clarify and stipulate all the procedures that will be used for the well.
“Right now it’s a paper process,” Robinson said. “It details how the operation will be conducted but there is nothing that is controversial. Our objective now is to test the volume, chemistry and temperature.” Robinson hopes to get a draft permit with the first quarter of 2012. If that happens, he would be drilling the exploratory well within a year.
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.
Fred Henderson and Hank Held of Mt. Princeton Geothermal, LLC, organized the meeting, and Warren Dewhurst provided information about the magnetotelluric survey his company, Dewhurst Group, LLC, will conduct. Held, founder of Mt. Princeton Geothermal, acknowledged the controversial nature of efforts to develop the geothermal resource. He said, “There will continue to be controversy until questions are answered.”
Those questions will not be answered without drilling a deep test well, and Henderson, chief scientist with Mt. Princeton Geothermal, said an investor is interested in drilling a deep well in the area. He said the investor requested the magnetotelluric survey, which, along with shallow temperature measurements, will identify the best place to drill a deep well.
Dewhurst said the survey will be completed before the end of the month, will not involve any drilling and will require at least 100 sites for good results…
Dewhurst said the survey will involve technicians placing five electrodes and two magnetometers on the ground at each site and taking readings for two hours before moving to the next site…
Dewhurst said his company’s technology is capable of modeling subsurface electrical conductivity to 10 kilometers (6 miles) or deeper. It works well for geothermal exploration because geothermal water is an electrical conductor…
More information about the magnetotelluric technology used by Dewhurst Group is at www.dewhurstgroup.us.
As of Thursday afternoon, they had drilled down 1,003 feet. They had expected to reach water, for temperature-taking, by 1,000 feet underground. The city’s drilling permit allows them to drill as far as 1,500 feet…
She said the city does not have a precise finish date at this time, but the driller — California-based Dan’s Water Well & Pump Service — believes it’s on the verge of hitting water. “Our experts believe it’s close but it’s impossible to pinpoint the exact depth until we reach it,” [Lauren McDonell, the city of Aspen’s environmental programs manager] said…
The work has…been slowed, at points, by the density of the Leadville limestone through which the crew is drilling. A partial collapse of the 6-inch-diameter hole Wednesday also delayed their progress. The drillers were installing steel casing Wednesday to reinforce the hole, before they begin to drill deeper…
Anecdotal reports from 19th century miners about the extreme heat in mines below town have indicated that geothermal could be harnessed for 21st century needs. A 2008 geothermal feasibility study boosted hopes further, indicating that the temperature of local underground water ranges from 90 to 140 degrees. To heat or cool buildings with geothermal energy, 100-degree water is required.
A public meeting to discuss the survey and surface measurements is scheduled for 7 p.m. Nov. 30 in the Sangre De Cristo Electric Association community room, 29780 N. U.S. 24 in Buena Vista. The purpose of the survey is to verify the existence of a deep, highly conductive geothermal water reservoir…The survey consists of 125-150 noninvasive surface measurements of deep natural electrical currents in the earth. Measurements require two 1-meter-long magnetic sensors laid on the ground and four probes positioned in the ground at depths less than 1 foot. Magnetotelluric measurements require 2-12 hours to complete and can provide geological data to depths of 5,000 feet.
That research will involve two projects, one large scale, the other much smaller in scope.
Dr. Terry Young (head of the Geophysics department), Dr. Michael Batzle and Dr. André Revil (both professors of geophysics) described the research their School of Mines team will conduct in Pagosa.
Although faculty and students would be researching numerous characteristics of the aquifer, that research would be the result of the two primary studies: deep seismic profiles made of a portion of the aquifer and passive, “geoelectrical methods” of data collection — “including self-potential, electrical resistivity, and induced polarization” — that Revin describes on his website.
As far as deep seismic profiling, Young said that, “The technique is very similar to medical technology, such as an MRI or a CAT scan.”
What Young meant was that significantly large sound waves are directed beneath the earth’s surface, allowing a computer to translate the received echoes as shapes and depths (much in the way that an MRI — Magnetic Resonance Imaging — provides three dimensional images of a patient).
Those sound waves will be generated through the use of so-called “thumper trucks” — 60,000-pound pieces of equipment that generate controlled seismic energy.
Through both reflection and refraction, seismic surveys of the subterranean topography are achieved as seismic waves, travelling through a medium such as water or layers of rocks, are recorded by receivers, such as geophones or hydrophones.
Revin’s research, on the other hand, measures electrical signals associated with the movement of water in porous, fractured materials to locate the movement and characteristics of geothermal water.
With dozens of graduate students in tow, working with Mines faculty, the team will mobilize in specific areas throughout Pagosa Country, attempting to map portions of the aquifer for the first time ever.
Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for the map of geothermal resources produced by the mapping project. Here’s a report from Science Daily. From the article:
The results of the new research, from SMU Hamilton Professor of Geophysics David Blackwell and Geothermal Lab Coordinator Maria Richards, confirm and refine locations for resources capable of supporting large-scale commercial geothermal energy production under a wide range of geologic conditions, including significant areas in the eastern two-thirds of the United States. The estimated amounts and locations of heat stored in Earth’s crust included in this study are based on nearly 35,000 data sites — approximately twice the number used for Blackwell and Richards’ 2004 Geothermal Map of North America, leading to improved detail and contouring at a regional level.
Based on the additional data, primarily drawn from oil and gas drilling, larger local variations can be seen in temperatures at depth, highlighting more detail for potential power sites than was previously evident in the eastern portion of the U.S. For example, eastern West Virginia has been identified as part of a larger Appalachian trend of higher heat flow and temperature.
Conventional U.S. geothermal production has been restricted largely to the western third of the country in geographically unique and tectonically active locations. For instance, The Geysers Field north of San Francisco is home to more than a dozen large power plants that have been tapping naturally occurring steam reservoirs to produce electricity for more than 40 years.
However, newer technologies and drilling methods can now be used to develop resources in a wider range of geologic conditions, allowing reliable production of clean energy at temperatures as low as 100˚C (212˚F) — and in regions not previously considered suitable for geothermal energy production. Preliminary data released from the SMU study in October 2010 revealed the existence of a geothermal resource under the state of West Virginia equivalent to the state’s existing (primarily coal-based) power supply…
Areas of particular geothermal interest include the Appalachian trend (Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, to northern Louisiana), the aquifer heated area of South Dakota, and the areas of radioactive basement granites beneath sediments such as those found in northern Illinois and northern Louisiana. The Gulf Coast continues to be outlined as a huge resource area and a promising sedimentary basin for development. The Raton Basin in southeastern Colorado possesses extremely high temperatures and is being evaluated by the State of Colorado along with an area energy company.
The temporary drilling will be on the gravel parking lot for the city-owned Prockter Open Space, beside the Roaring Fork River and across Neale Avenue from Heron Park.
The city finalized an agreement with a driller for the site this week…
The final contract also allows for a drill-site footprint of about 3,500 square feet, up from the original bid’s estimate of about 400 square feet of surface infrastructure. The well itself is expected to be just 6 to 8 inches wide. The drill hole will be up to 1,000 feet deep…
Work is scheduled to take place between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. In all, the project will take 19 to 31 days, including testing, with actual drilling taking place on eight to 10 of those days…
Based on a 2008 geothermal feasibility study, the temperature of local underground water ranges from 90 to 140 degrees. To heat or cool buildings with geothermal energy, 100-degree water is required. To generate electricity, the city would need water of at least 220 degrees.
One approach to reducing greenhouse gases has been more reliance on renewable energy. But energy projects, both conventional and renewable, typically require large amounts of water. That means the long-term physical and legal availability of water resources will play an important role in the siting of renewable energy facilities.
In the U.S., federal programs such as the Endangered Species Act and the push to reserve water rights for parks, wilderness areas and tribal lands are further limiting water availability for development.
To remedy this, two trends are emerging. First is an effort to co-locate renewable energy projects with water reuse, reclamation and desalinisation facilities. Second is a growing interest in new water conservation technologies being developed in Israel and other countries which have a long experience of dealing with water shortages.
The city’s Open Space and Trails Board in July unanimously approved a temporary test-drilling site on the gravel parking lot of the city-owned Prockter Open Space, beside the Roaring Fork River and across Neale Avenue from Heron Park. The city has dedicated $150,000 to the exploration project, and also won a $50,000 grant from the Governor’s Energy Office to help fund the test drilling…
Drilling had been slated for mid-September, but no drillers responded to a city request for proposals (RFP). An Aug. 29 deadline for proposals came and went without any interested contractors coming forward.
“We didn’t get any bids, so we’re trying again,” said [Canary Initiative] director Lauren McDonnell. The city has put the project out for proposals again, with a new deadline set for this Monday, Sept. 19.