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While there remains no visible progress related to quantifying (or qualifying) the availability of super-heated water thousands of feet below the surface of Chaffee County, that does not mean that conversation about geothermal energy isn’t beginning to bubble up. It is.

Not only was there a conference on the topic held at Mt. Princeton by no less than former governor Bill Ritter last winter, but former Sangre de Cristo Electric Association Board Chair Joe Redetzke raised it during the election debates, and discussed it again with Ark Valley Voice in our candidate interviews.

Presented at the January 2023 meeting at Mt. Princeton Hot Springs Pavilion, this map shows the extent of the geothermal reservoir or a prediction of how big and where the reservoir sits. Image Courtesy of Hank Held.

Discussions of the potential for geothermal energy underlying the Arkansas River Valley have gone on for the past several years. Those who have studied this report that the ideal temperature at which heated water could be used for generating energy is 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

To even begin to consider the reservoir of water for potential energy generation would require a proof of concept drilling effort with a potential five million dollar price tag, which isn’t likely any time soon.

But pursuing potential energy alternatives to fossil fuels is on the agenda not just of Colorado Governor Jared Polis in his “The Heat Beneath our Feet” initiative, but it is on the minds of most Western governors.

Just this past week, a float in the Buena Vista Fourth of July parade revealed a citizen petition ( “demanding the Chaffee County Board of Commissioners reject the proposed location for a geothermal power plant on Rodeo Road near County Road 323”. They go on to “demand representation from our member-owned electric co-op, (SDCEA) to ensure they fiduciarily represent their member’s best interests regarding development of geothermal energy” in the valley.

Given that the recent SDCEA elections revealed a significant solar energy protest effort, it is unknown what support there might be for the exploration of geothermal energy here.

Public comment at the June 20 Chaffee Board of County Commissioners meeting reveals resident’s concerns that arise from the many unknowns, but they also reveal that the lack of facts is fueling misinformation.

That said, most of those who commented were concerned about the impacts of deep drilling for super-heated water possibly contaminating their own wells, anything that might be considered “industrial” located anywhere along CR 323, and unforeseen impacts of geothermal drilling altering the behavior of nearby geothermal features. Of course, the most well-known geothermal features are Chaffee County’s two commercially-known hot springs; Mount Princeton Hot Springs and Cottonwood Creek Hot Springs.

“In many places in locations including California, Nevada, Chile, and Iceland geothermal drilling has altered the behavior of nearby geothermal features,” said one man during BoCC public comment. “In other words, we don’t know what is going to happen to things like the Mt. Princeton fishery. My neighbors have 300 ft. [deep] wells. We aren’t against the geothermal, just not at the mile-deep drilling”.

Featured image: Flash Steam Geothermal Power Plant in Nevada. Photo courtesy Dennis Schroeder, NREL.

Editor’s note: With the growing interest in the subject of geothermal energy, Ark Valley Voice will continue to report on this developing topic.