Geothermal energy might come to Gypsum | VailDaily.com

Geothermal energy might come to Gypsum

Derek Franz
dfranz@eaglevalleyenterprise
Vail, CO Colorado

GYPSUM, Colorado – A man from the energy business was literally looking to land himself in hot water at Tuesday’s Gypsum Town Council meeting.

Lee Robinson, a manager for Flint LLC, wants to drill about 4,000 to 5,000 feet below the surface of the Eagle County Regional Airport to see if the water in a fault line is hot enough to be used for energy purposes.

Robinson was hoping for a resolution from the council that would essentially give him a green light to start exploring. The council wasn’t able to do so then, but it did pass a motion to continue working with the company on the possibility of an exploratory well. Town staff and lawyers will now look into drafting some kind of resolution that will come back before council.

Robinson said the Rio Grande Rift extends from Mexico into Colorado under the earth’s surface. The rift is caused by the earth’s crust getting pulled apart. Water trickling down into the deep nooks and crannies of such a rift is then heated by the earth’s mantle. Robinson said the airport is the closest land to the rift that’s entirely owned by Gypsum, including mineral rights, and that’s why he wants to explore there, west of the runway.

If the water down there is hot enough it could help with heating and power generation. Of course, that’s assuming there’s enough of it and that its chemistry is OK.

“If we are particularly lucky and find 350-degree water, we could add a generation facility to the system,” Robinson said.

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The “closed-loop” system Robinson envisions wouldn’t take up much space, he said. “It would fit in this room,” he said, pointing around the council chamber.

On the off chance that steam was found, 30-foot-high cooling towers would be needed, but it would also mean more money.

“Steam is worth a lot more,” Robinson said. “I don’t think we’re going to find that, though, if we do we’ll come back and talk.”

Still, Robinson estimated the resource could save some town entities around 20 percent in energy expenses.

If the exploration proves fruitful, Robinson wants to drill more wells and utilize the resource throughout the county.

“In terms of commitments, we’re talking decades,” he said.

Airport plans ready for lift-off

Eagle County and the town of Gypsum wrapped up what Commissioner Jon Stavney called a “14-year challenge” at the Gypsum council meeting Tuesday night.

The challenge dealt with Eagle County Regional Airport. As parts of the airport are located in Gypsum and others in the county, red-tape complications have long plagued developers and decision makers.

Stavney and Gypsum Town Manager Jeff Shroll both commented how much time and paper work it took just to move a toilet stall a few feet in the ladies’ restroom.

Further complicating matters was the fact that random patches of land had been left out of Gypsum’s previous airport annexations. Those three parcels have been “cleaned up,” county attorney Bryan Treu announced at Tuesday’s meeting.

However, the real accomplishment officials were applauding Tuesday was a 50-year build-out plan for the airport. In nitty-gritty legal detail, the plan spells out what Eagle County can and can’t do without permission from the town of Gypsum and vice versa.

“It’s easier to clear the boundaries up and define our roles,” Shroll said. “This gives us a better mechanism to approve things.”

The plan is important because the airport is getting set for some major improvements, such as a new High Altitude Army Aviation Training Site facility. With all the impending changes and development, officials are eager to streamline a process that will have to take place many times over.

“We’re really happy to have an agreement binding everyone to cooperate,” Stavney joked.