Glenwood studies geothermal energy |

Glenwood studies geothermal energy

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” A new group meets for the first time Wednesday to begin exploring the use of Glenwood Springs’ most famous natural amenity ” the source of its hot springs ” to produce heat and electricity.

The Glenwood Springs City Council decided in June to form a 12-member geothermal task force. Its three main charges are to update a geothermal heat-use plan for the area prepared in 1980 by the University of Denver for the Department of Energy, to assess how current technology can apply to Glenwood’s geothermal resources and to develop a business plan for a geothermal utility.

Discussion will include the possibility of tapping hot water ” long made famous by Glenwood’s Hot Springs Pool ” to heat structures or even generate electricity. Elsewhere in Colorado, Pagosa Springs has operated a geothermal heating system since 1982. Hot water is pumped to the surface and heat is transferred to a “fresh-water loop” used to deliver heat to customers.

That’s just one of many ideas that could be explored.

“There are so many possibilities to utilize that resource,” said Dan Richardson, a task force member who works with the Schmueser Gordon Meyer engineering firm. “I think we’ll be exploring a lot of different opportunities and seeing what’s feasible.

“I think we’re reaching a time in history where, in addition to the benefits of renewable energy, there’s the opportunity for it to be a more cost-effective resource,”said Richardson, who formerly headed up Aspen’s initiative to fight global warming.

Public Works Director Robin Millyard said there’s no timeline for how long the geothermal task force will meet, but it will at some point make a recommendation and funding request to the City Council. Technical work will probably be done with the help of a consulting team.

City Manager Jeff Hecksel said the task force includes a variety of members, including geologists, engineers and hydrologists who have knowledge or experience with the area’s geothermal aquifer.

The task force and possible creation of a geothermal utility could help resolve varying views of the area’s aquifer.

The city invited two representatives from the Hot Springs Lodge and Pool to the task force to speak up for their interests and also because the pool has done research on the aquifer that could help group, Hecksel said.

“There continues to be a concern about how this resource can be used to the benefit of the entire community without being a detriment to the people that are currently dependent on it,” he said.

Last November, the pool operators proposed an ordinance to the City Council that would restrict excavation in Glenwood Springs to protect the area’s geothermal aquifer that feeds the pool. An attorney accused the pool of trying to monopolize geothermal resources in Glenwood. The ordinance didn’t pick up steam and met mainly questions and criticism.

Consultants for the Colorado Department of Transportation in February told the City Council there’s no such thing as a “geothermal mantle” just below the ground that could be easily damaged and draw down flows at the Hot Springs Lodge and Pool, as the pool has maintained.

Glenwood isn’t the only community in the area thinking about hot water. The city of Aspen said recently it planned to drill an exploratory well next year in hopes of tapping geothermal energy.

During a June 5 meeting, City Councilman Russ Arensman said, “I think it’s years and years overdue, and I think it can become kind of a test-bed for geothermal resources in this part of the country.”

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