Company wants to drill for hot water at Eagle County airport
EAGLE, Colorado – It’s going to take some time, but a Denver-based company believes Eagle County could be the next hot spot in a relatively new kind of alternative energy.
Lee Robinson of Link LLC talked Monday to Eagle County Commissioners Peter Runyon and Sara Fisher about a proposal that would put a geothermal energy tap on property just south and west of the west end of the runway at the Eagle County Regional Airport. Depending on what the company finds nearly a mile underground, hot water or steam could be used to heat the airport terminals, and, possibly, Eagle Valley High School, the Gypsum Recreation Center, or even the American Gypsum wallboard factory.
Robinson gave the commissioners a quick lesson about geothermal energy, particularly the Rio Grande Rift, a geologic formation that runs essentially the north-south length of the country, from New Mexico into Idaho and Canada. There’s a lot of hot water in that formation, including the waters that fuel hot springs in Glenwood Springs and elsewhere. That hot water – steam in some places – is a largely untapped source of heating energy, Robinson said. And in places where the water is so hot it comes to the surface as steam, it could also be used to generate electricity.
Robinson told the commissioners his company would like to lease a roughly two-acre parcel at the airport, primarily because the county owns both the surface rights and the underground mineral rights on the property. Those underground rights are crucial for drilling.
Robinson proposed a three-year lease on the land at first, to give Link enough time to determine just what’s underground. If there’s enough hot water at the location, the company would then ask for a long-term lease on the land, and would share revenue from selling the heat to other users.
Fisher and Runyon were intrigued by the idea, but had plenty of questions, from how the system would work to what safeguards Link would use to prevent or stop any failure of the wells. The biggest questions were about what this plan would cost the cash-strapped county.
For the moment at least, Robinson said the answer to the last question is “nothing.”
The commissioners also balked at the idea of getting into a long-term arrangement with Link.
But there was enough interest that the commissioners said they would bring the county attorney’s office into the discussions, and asked Robinson to come back in a couple of weeks.
“We’d like some time to think of more questions for you,” Fisher said.