GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Garfield County has a better idea where the best potential for developing a dozen different renewable and nonrenewable energy resources exists, as well as the various natural, legal and regulatory constraints to tapping those resources.
County commissioners on Monday were presented with the first phase of a new energy master plan conducted by consultants TRC.
The initial phase involved taking an inventory of 12 resources that exist in the county, from natural gas, oil shale, oil, coal and other fossil fuels to wind, solar, hydroelectric and geothermal, and mapping out where they are most abundant.
Mineral deposits, including gravel/aggregate that can be used in the production of concrete, asphalt and other industrial products, are also analyzed.
“Garfield County naturally possesses a variety of energy sources that include both renewable and traditional fossil-fuel-based resources in a landscape that is home to abundant wildlife, active recreation opportunities, agriculture and rural living,” an executive summary of the report points out.
“Energy resource development has historically occurred throughout the county, and it’s anticipated that energy resources will continue to be developed in the foreseeable future,” the summary continues.
“However, no comprehensive inventory of existing energy resources or development constraints had been generated to identify areas where future energy development may occur.”
County commissioners asked that the study be done so that they can prepare a master plan to guide energy development policy decisions in the future.
The energy master plan could eventually be included as part of the county’s comprehensive land-use plan, or may stand on its own as a policy guideline.
The county can also use the information to better plan public infrastructure and capital improvements around future energy-related development, and to protect natural resources.
An inventory of natural gas and other fossil fuels shows much of what the county already knows — that those resources are primarily concentrated in the central and western parts of the county within the Piceance Basin, including a mix of private and public lands.
Solar energy potential is most likely along the Interstate 70 corridor in the Silt, Rifle and Parachute areas, and in the open expanses near the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Crystal rivers near Carbondale, according to the mapping exercise.
The Highway 82 corridor east of Carbondale to the Eagle County line also has a lot of potential for solar development, according to the mapping exercise.
While wind energy could be harnessed on many of the high plateaus scattered from one end of the county to the other, the greatest potential is in some of the remote areas of the Flat Tops in the northeastern part of the county.
The greatest potential to tap geothermal energy resources is primarily concentrated around Glenwood Springs and up South Canyon.
“Development constraints can range from physical constraints such as slop of terrain, water bodies, 100-year floodplains and wildlife habitat, to regulatory constraints that include local, state and federally protected areas,” according to the consultants’ summary.
Those constraints are rated in three categories as having a major, moderate or minor impact on potential development of the various resources.
“Many are similar because they affect both conventional and renewable resources alike,” according to the summary.
“Additional work is needed to identify and analyze resources such as rural residential development, lack of appropriate zoning, visual resources, public safety and air quality,” the report also concludes.
County commissioners said they intend to share the report with members of the county planning commission and the energy advisory board.