Colorado Looks Deeper into Geothermal Energy

Estimated to contain some of the best geothermal resources in the U.S., Colorado is trying to expand its geothermal development and catch up with other western states like Nevada and California that have begun to take advantage of their abundant resources.

“Recent studies undertaken by the Colorado Geological Survey show that our state’s potential to generate clean, renewable ‘base load’ power using the earth’s heat is much greater than previously assumed,” said Paul Bony, Delta-Montrose Electric Association (DMEA)’s Manager of Marketing and Member Services.

The Colorado Geological Society and other researchers indicate that Colorado’s geothermal electric potential is the 4th greatest in the nation; however, there is not yet a single geothermal electric power plant in the state.

The geothermal industry in the western U.S. is well established and growing quickly. In 2005, 5.0% of California’s electric energy generation came from geothermal power plants. Nevada is now on track to be producing over 1,000 megawatts of geothermal power over the next three to five years, quadrupling the state’s current geothermal output. This level of geothermal production would meet roughly 25% of Nevada’s total power needs.

Fossil fuel industries in Colorado have potential synergies with the “mining of heat,” for geothermal electric power plants. New technology may be able to generate electricity from the medium temperatured heat in water associated with oil and gas production. As a result, the geothermal industry today is well connected technically to two industry giants in the energy arena—oil and gas producers.

The federal and state government and geothermal advocates are now working together to increase investment in Colorado’s geothermal energy industry.

The DMEA is working under contract to the Governor’s Energy Office (GEO) through funding provided by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to advance the DOE’s “GeoPowering the West” initiative in Colorado. In October, DMEA will host the “Colorado Geothermal Investors Forum” at the Montrose Pavilion to advance investment in the geothermal industry and craft a plan to match development in other western states.