Colorado: Polis Administration Announces $7.7 million in Awards for Geothermal Energy Projects

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Geothermal Energy will reduce emissions, save money, promote energy independence, and create good-paying job opportunities in Colorado communities

PUEBLO -  Today, at Fire Station #8 in Pueblo, Governor Polis and the Colorado Energy Office (CEO) announced $7.7 million in grant awards through the Geothermal Energy Grant Program to advance the use of geothermal technology in the state. Governor Polis' nation-leading efforts to develop Colorado's geothermal energy resources is essential to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, while creating stable, good-paying jobs in just transition communities and ensuring affordable and reliable access to clean energy for all Coloradans.

"Geothermal energy, the heat beneath our feet, is an underutilized resource that can save people money on energy and improve air quality. Colorado is already a national leader in low-cost renewable energy, and now with these grants, we are supporting more geothermal energy across the state," said Governor Jared Polis.

This investment will support 35 innovative projects to install geothermal heat pumps in buildings; study and develop interconnected geothermal systems between buildings (thermal energy networks); and test and confirm geothermal resources for zero-emissions electricity generation. Awardees are expected to invest more than $100 million into the awarded projects to leverage the state investment.

This summer, Governor Polis will visit several awarded project sites across the state to highlight the important work awardees are doing to take advantage of Colorado's abundant "heat beneath our feet," the topic of Governor Polis' Chair Initiative at the Western Governors' Association.

Geothermal energy has applications across sectors, providing extremely efficient, zero-emissions building heating and cooling and reliable clean electricity, regardless of weather conditions.

"Geothermal energy will play an important role in reducing pollution from two of Colorado's highest emitting sectors: buildings and electricity," said CEO Executive Director Will Toor. "We couldn't be more excited to get these projects off the ground and continue leading the nation in geothermal technology advancement, while also supporting good-paying jobs for Colorado's energy workforce."

Both thermal energy networks and geothermal electricity generation require the same workforce skills as jobs in the oil and gas industry. For example, the pipes for thermal energy networks are the same as gas pipes, allowing pipe workers to directly apply the same skills as used in gas distribution. Similarly, geothermal electricity generation uses much of the same skills and equipment as oil and gas production.

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To ensure that the benefits of these investments reach Coloradans who are most impacted by poor air quality and the economic transition away from fossil fuels, CEO awarded 48% of this funding to projects in disproportionately impacted (DI) and just transition (JT) communities.

The table below shows the breakdown of funding for each type of grant offered through the Geothermal Energy Grant program:



Grant type



Award amount



Percent DI/JT



Subtype award amounts



Single-Structure



$947 K



60%



N/A



Thermal Energy Network



$3.57 M



40%



Initial Study: $492 K

Design Study: $2.2 M

Build-out: $839 K



Geothermal Electricity



$3.22 M



54%



Confirmation Study: $722 K

Drilling & Testing: $2.5 M

Generation Site: $0



Total



$7.7 M



48%



N/A


The awarded projects reflect a broad diversity of geographies and technologies. Geothermal heating and cooling projects in urban areas include fire stations, university campuses, a recreation center, a science and technology hub, and mixed-use neighborhood developments.

The City of Pueblo, for example, will use $270,000 in grant funding to install ground-source heat pumps for heating and cooling at three new, net-zero emissions fire stations. These fire stations will be located in majority black, indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) communities that are far away from existing emergency services, helping reduce insurance rates and improve emergency response time and outcomes. This project will also save taxpayers money, resulting in more than $28,000 in energy cost savings annually.

"Installing geothermal heat pumps in Pueblo's three newest net-zero fire stations will keep operation costs low while reducing electricity demand on the grid from these much needed emergency services hubs," said Pueblo Mayor Heather Graham. "We are grateful to receive this funding from the state, which will not only help us achieve our sustainability goals, but will also save our community money and advance the use of innovative geothermal technology in our city."

Projects in rural communities will explore thermal energy networks to enhance community resilience, support affordable housing development, upgrade snowmelt systems, and electrify a regional airport.

This includes Gradient Geothermal's project, which will receive a $100,000 award to assess the feasibility of developing a thermal energy network in Pierce, Colorado that uses inactive oil wells as a direct heat source. The site also has potential for geothermal electricity generation. Projects such as this, which convert oil and gas operations and co-produce geothermal energy, can provide a new, more sustainable economic opportunity in communities transitioning away from fossil fuel production.

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"Gradient Geothermal is excited to help bring geothermal energy and power generation to Pierce Field, Colorado," said Gradient Geothermal CEO Benjamin Burke. "The heat beneath our feet brings new life to a mature oil field and, as a subsurface form of energy, is familiar to an oil and gas workforce. Pierce can be a world-class 'geothermal garden' where both heat and electricity from geothermal power benefit the entire town."

The University of Colorado (CU) Boulder will also receive $675,000 to conduct feasibility and design studies for two interrelated geothermal projects exploring the co-generation of geothermal electricity and heat. These projects could enable on-site geothermal electricity production that co-generates heat for a thermal energy network connecting more than 12 million square feet of conditioned space across three CU Boulder Campuses.

"Geothermal energy has tremendous growth potential for application in the United States, and we are grateful to the state for this funding that will help us further explore the application of both geo-exchange and geothermal resources for the campus," Chancellor Philip DiStefano said. "The proposed studies will advance CU Boulder's energy and climate action goals as we seek to reduce climate impacts for the benefit of Colorado residents, CU Boulder students, faculty and staff, and the local and regional community."

Investments in geothermal electricity generation are particularly important, as a recent analysis found that geothermal electricity will play a key role in achieving Colorado's goal of 100% clean electricity by 2040. CEO awarded several geothermal electricity site studies and test wells, representing the potential development of Colorado's first 35 megawatts or more of geothermal electricity.

For example, Geothermal Technologies, Inc (GTI) will use a $1 million award to develop a geothermal test well at the Longs Peak Dairy in Weld County, potentially generating 3 MW of clean electricity initially and more than 180 MW once the site reaches its full generation capacity. This new generation will improve grid resilience with affordable and reliable year-round electricity.

"Geothermal Technologies chose to construct its flagship geothermal power plant in the State of Colorado for two very important reasons," said GTI CEO J. Gary McDaniel. "The first is the outstanding geothermal resources that exist throughout Colorado in its many sedimentary basins. The second is the commitment the state is making to developing these resources. We are extremely pleased to be working together with the state on this important project, which is designed to prove the viability of making economic, clean, geothermal electricity."

For a full list and descriptions of awarded projects, see the Summary of Awards.

CEO will open another round of funding for the Geothermal Energy Grant Program later this year. The Colorado Heat Pump Tax Credit and the competitive Geothermal Electricity Tax Credit Offering are also available to support the use of geothermal energy for heating and cooling, including thermal energy networks, and for electricity generation in Colorado.

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