Aspen says drilling of geothermal test well to end this week
The Aspen Times
Drilling of a test well near Herron Park to see if the potential exists for a geothermal-energy project is expected to be finished this weekend, according to the city of Aspen staffer who is overseeing the project.
It’s been nearly two years since the city’s Open Space and Trails Board approved the city’s plan for the test well, located in a gravel parking lot in the Prockter Open Space across from Herron Park off Neale Avenue, near the No Problem Bridge. Dan’s Water Well and Pump Service commenced drilling in the fall of 2011, but did not complete it. The project underwent a couple of delays in 2012 and resumed in April.
Touted as an environmental initiative, the test well aims to find out if there is an underground water source with a temperature high enough to enable the city to develop a geothermal heating or electricity-producing system, another way for the community to reduce its carbon footprint.
Jeff Rice, utilities efficiency manager for the city, said the drilling reached a 1,400-foot depth Wednesday. The city wants to get to 1,500 feet by Friday, the maximum allowable level for the project.
Once the level is reached, the drilling team can prepare to leave the site and the city can begin a yearlong process of testing the water temperatures, Rice said.
He added that some neighbors in that area of town, upset over noise and visual impacts, have phoned City Hall with concerns that the work was extended past an early June deadline that was supposed to mark the end of drilling.
Rice acknowledged that the project, which has an overall budget of nearly $275,000, has faced several problems. This year, drillers abandoned the hole it had been digging since 2011 — it was caving in — and began drilling another hole some 20 feet away. But there have been some issues surrounding the new hole, including a deeper-than-expected layer of alluvial soil.
“What it really comes down to is, we encountered some stuff that you just don’t find very often in the drilling world,” Rice said. “All of the people we consulted said, ‘This is what you probably will find.’ What we found was something different.”
For example, the consultants thought the alluvial-soil level, the loose layer of sediment and gravel just below the surface, would be 160 to 180 feet deep. Instead, drillers discovered it was 260 feet deep, the point at which the drillers began to hit shale.
Tricia Cunningham, a resident on East Hopkins Avenue who lives close to the drilling site, said the city has been nice in explaining the reasons for the project extensions. Still, she’s ready for the drilling to end.
“It’s just challenging for those of us who live nearby,” Cunningham said. “We just keep hearing it’s done, and then it’s not done.”
She said the project has led to a loss of wildlife that used to visit Herron Park regularly and added that the noise prevents residents from opening their windows during the day.
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The city of Aspen’s land use code says that only single-family homes can be built on lots smaller than 6,000 square feet in certain neighborhoods. That might change if Aspen City Council allows a proposed change that allows multi-family buildings to be developed.