City of Glenwood Springs explores geothermal energy use | PostIndependent.com

City of Glenwood Springs explores geothermal energy use

Pete FowlerPost Independent StaffGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS Clorado At least one City Councilor thinks Glenwood Springs should be at the forefront of working with the state to develop geothermal energy as a renewable energy resource.Councilor Russ Arensman said a dream of his is to harness geothermal energy to heat the area of the citys river confluence area. The city plans to move the wastewater treatment plant away from its current location with a target date of 2012 to the west end of the city and develop the confluence area just southeast of where the Roaring Fork and the Colorado rivers meet.Wouldnt it be great if we could use geothermal heating for all those facilities? Arensman said in a phone interview Friday. It would be a real showpiece for the Western Slope.Its far easier to fit new development with geothermal heating systems than it is to retrofit existing development, Arensman said.The City Council voted unanimously Thursday to respond to a request for information from the Governors Energy Office (GEO). The office asked for information about potential development of geothermal resources in the state. The GEO hopes to promote using heat from the ground to warm buildings and/or produce electricity as a renewable resource to conserve energy and reduce carbon emissions. Benefits of working with the state include the possibility of some funding and help with technical expertise.What were going to look at is what are the potential projects and where is the interest in the state, so that we can apply resources to those projects, said Joani Matranga, Western Slope representative for the Governors Energy Office.In an e-mail to city officials, Arensman wrote, Glenwood Springs should be at the front of the line in seeking to participate in this program. Weve talked about this as a City Council, and identified the exploration of developing our geothermal resources as one of our high priorities.He said one goal of the GEO to reduce barriers to geothermal development fits well with Glenwoods own need to resolve local differences regarding the areas geothermal aquifer.The Hot Springs Lodge & Pool has expressed fears about construction damaging the aquifer that feeds the pool. In early 2005, the City Council voted to move a whitewater park from near Two Rivers Park farther west, just upstream of the Midland Avenue bridge in West Glenwood, in part due to a legal threat from the pool. In November, the pool urged the city to enact an ordinance restricting excavation in Glenwood to protect the aquifer. It would have required permitting and study in certain areas to prove excavation wouldnt harm the aquifer.Basically, there wasnt a great deal of interest on the council because it struck a lot of us as a pretty one-sided deal, Arensman said about the proposed ordinance. What we really need is something that protects the existing users in part the pool because its a huge asset to the community but at the same time makes it possible and creates some avenues for other projects and other users.He believes help from the state could provide an independent perspective on the issue.Our concern has always been if the confining layer of the aquifer were penetrated accidentally, that it would be very difficult to rectify the situation, said Scott Balcomb, an attorney representing the pool. I understand the (GEOs request) was to get more information, and were all for more information.The vote occurred Thursday night, and Balcomb said he hadnt heard from the city by Friday afternoon. He plans to recommend that the pool work with the city to get involved and make sure the information sent to the GEO is as complete as possible.On Friday, Councilor Dave Merritt said if the city can balance the need to protect flows to existing users like the pool, the potential for harnessing geothermal energy in Glenwood is huge.There are some places that have been doing it effectively for a very long time, Merritt said, mentioning Pagosa Springs and New Zealand as examples. Its more like getting on board on this and seeing how we can really utilize this resource far better than we are right now.Also reached Friday, Councilor Shelley Kaup said shes very enthusiastic about the prospect of working with the state to investigate geothermal energy use. Of particular interest is possible grant money and technical expertise the state could lend to Glenwood. She also said its important to exercise sensitivity toward the pool and others who tap hot water from the ground.Im very enthused that the governors office is willing to put in that level of interest and study in terms of alternative energy, she said.The deadline to submit the response to the GEO is March 14.Contact Pete Fowler: 384-9121pfowler@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO