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Pagosa geothermal group visits Denver, plans local open house

On Thursday and Friday of last week, there were more Pagosans in Denver than anywhere else in Colorado, except Pagosa.

A team of folks from the town, county, Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership (GGP) and the Geothermal Advisory Group descended on the first 2011 regional meeting of the Governor’s Energy Office Geothermal Working Group (GWG) held on Thursday.

On Friday, the group attended prearranged meetings with the USDA, the Governor’s Energy Office and with a professor from Colorado School of Mines.

An open house is scheduled for May 11 at 5:30 p.m. at the Ross Aragon Community Center Tile Room to involve community members in conversations about the outcomes of these two days in Denver. Questions are welcome. This article begins the conversation.

The primary focus of the GWG was to address barriers to geothermal utilization and identify pathways that will lead to the development of successful projects. The objective of the meeting was to?generate a slate of action items the group will pursue in the months ahead to advance the opportunities and business case for Colorado’s geothermal resources. Clearly, both focus and objective meshed nicely with the interests of the Pagosa geothermal team (town, county, GGP and Geothermal Advisory Group) that has been pursuing the development of Pagosa’s geothermal resource for the last two years. The Geothermal Working Group meeting also testifies to a strong commitment at the state level to the development of sustainable energy resources within Colorado.

Of the three major sectors of geothermal development — Geoexchange (ground source heat pumps), Geothermal Electricity Production and Direct Use — it is Direct Use that is most relevant to the Pagosa situation. Two presentations were made in the Direct Use Track by members of the Pagosa team: Phil Starks (Pagosa Springs Geothermal Supervisor), together with Gerry Huttrer of Geothermal Management Company and John Lund of National Renewable Energy Lab, “Utility District Potential for Hot Springs Towns,” and Ken Vickerstaff (organic food industry executive), “Exploring the Business Opportunities of Aquaculture.” Both were well attended and received.

In the past, Pagosa’s low temperature geothermal water (approximately 140 degrees) eliminated it from being a source for the production of electricity; however, during the presentation, “Small Scale Electricity Production,” the Pagosa team learned of a new technology with the potential of generating electricity from low temperature water. Animated conversation and business cards were exchanged with the presenter, Jim Meehan of MHC Green Energy, Inc., Avon, Colo.

Friday’s schedule was tightly packed and productive. Between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m., the Pagosa Team carpooled to meetings at three locations: Denver, Lakewood and Golden. The first meeting was with former Senator Jim Isgar of the Colorado office of the USDA and his staff. The second was with Francisco Flores of the Governor’s Energy Office, and the last was with Dr. Masami Nakagawa of the Colorado School of Mines. Topics included potential funding sources, the possibility of using graduate student interns during the quantification of the Pagosa geothermal resource, and the possibility of hosting the fifth and final GWG meeting in Pagosa in the fall.

Conversations are ongoing concerning how to responsibly protect Pagosa’s geothermal resource while diversifying its use. The public is invited to participate in the conversation at the May 11 meeting, 5:30 p.m. at the community center.

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