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Town accepts state funding for geothermal energy


On June 4, the Pagosa Springs Town Council accepted a Geothermal Utility Revitalization Project Grant from the Colorado Energy Office (CEO). 

 The funding will go toward replacing “key system components that have received minimal preventative maintenance or have reached and exceeded their useful life since the installation of the system in the 1980’s,” according to an agenda document on the matter. 

Public Works Director Karl Johnson explained that the town did not receive the full amount that it had requested for the project. 

In a letter to Johnson, the CEO states that it “received 40 applications, requesting over $13 million for our initial round offering of $5 million.

“As the geothermal energy market emerges across Colorado, we sought to accommodate as many projects as possible and were able to provide a large percentage of projects some level of award by increasing our funding round to approximately $7.7 million.

“This approach is the primary reason why your project received partial funding.”

The town’s award amount is for $140,390 and requires that the town match that amount, which would bring the total project budget to $280,780. 

This would “allow for the replacement of the heat exchanger, pumps, instrumentation, and general facility improvements,” the document states.

Completion of the project would help to fulfill a major goal of the council to “ensure a well-functioning, updated geothermal heating utility that is financially solvent and a source of community pride,” the document states. 

“We asked for enough funding to replace some of the aging equipment in the [geothermal utility] building,” Johnson said. 

He added that, with town’s match, “we would have enough to replace the heat exchanger and the pumps that are continually being rebuilt year after year and then some of the instrumentation.” 

He explained that he was coming before the council to ask for acceptance of “this grant from the state energy office with the matching funds.” 

He explained that, “unfortunately,” the town would need to take the match funding out of the town’s general fund, because the town’s geothermal fund “currently does not have that balance to cover it in its reserves.” 

Council member Gary Williams commented that the grant “offered a tremendous opportunity for education” and to advertise the town “for being environmentally sensitive and using the natural resources in a way that’s beneficial to everyone.”

Williams suggested the idea of the town turning the geothermal building into an education center “with windows and arrows and pictures of how it actually works.”

He asked Johnson if he had “any ideas on how we could do that or how we could move forward with that?”

Johnson noted that, with the funding, the town could look at creating some “windows of opportunity to look in and create that educational piece.” 

He added that it may be easier to get funding from the CEO in the future if the town adds that educational feature to the building. 

Mayor Shari Pierce stated that she would bring this up to the Main Street Advisory Board as a “potential project to make that a little more tourist informational friendly.” 

She asked Johnson if he’d be willing to work with the Main Street program board to see if it has any opportunities for grants that could help with the educational piece. 

He replied, “absolutely,” adding that the building could also be opened up as a “canvas” for the public art program, incorporating it into “part of the educational piece as well.”

He suggested that before adding windows to the building, the interior would need to be cleaned up a little bit. 

When a motion was made to accept the grant, it was seconded and carried unanimously by the council. 

In a May 24 announcement of the $7.7 million in grant awards from Colorado Gov. Jared Polis’s office, it states that “Geothermal Energy will reduce emissions, save money, promote energy independence, and create good-paying job opportunities in Colorado communities.”