Dialogue heated up as Chalk Creek Canyon residents aired concerns about a possible geothermal energy project in the mountains west of Nathrop.
Fred Henderson, Chalk Creek canyon resident, partner and leading proponent of the geothermal project, led the discussion and fielded questions during a public meeting held Sept. 9 at Frontier Ranch.
Henderson explained what he called the perfect storm that makes the development of geothermal power more viable today than ever before. The perfect storm ingredients include an energy marketplace increasingly seeking alternatives to fossil fuels and a state law mandating that the state’s largest utilities obtain 20 percent their power from renewable energy sources by 2020.
In addition, advances in technology make it easier to harvest geothermal energy. Current projections envision a 10-megawatt power plant that could provide electricity to upwards of 4,000 homes. Initial cost to build such a plant is estimated at $30 – $40 million.
After more than 90-minutes of highly technical reporting from experts from the Colorado School of Mines and the Colorado Geological Survey, residents asked decidedly non-technical questions about the prospect of a geothermal energy plant becoming their new neighbor.
Among those in the audience were Republican county commissioner candidates Dennis Giese and Frank Holman. In comments after the meeting, Holman said he believed the project could be “done well” and was really excited and supportive of it. “It’s a great example of private enterprise working to create clean, sustainable, alternative energy,” Holman said.
Also in the audience was Joani Matranga, Western Regional Representative for the Governor’s Energy Office and Dave Blackwell a renowned geothermal researcher from Southern Methodist University’s Geothermal Lab.
Neighbors were less concerned with the benefits of developing renewable energy for the valley than possible impacts to the tranquility of their neighborhood and property values. Questions centered around whether further geologic testing and the eventual geothermal facility would degrade private geothermal and water wells. A number of others asked about possible noise and light pollution as well as the aesthetics of the facility.
Steve Lundgren, speaking on behalf of Frontier Ranch/Young Life, assured the 50 residents at the meeting that the owners and managers of the Christian camp had run Henderson “through the hoops” and were satisfied the project would not create noise or light pollution and would be constructed to be architecturally “harmonious” with the mountain environment. Frontier Ranch is a partner in Mount Princeton Geothermal LLC, the company trying to bring the project to life. In addition to Frontier Ranch and Henderson, other partners in the energy development company are Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort and John “Hank” Held, whose grandmother bought the family cabin in the hot springs—rich canyon west of Nathrop.
Next step for the project is to drill four to six additional test holes to hone in on the best, economically viable, deep geothermal reservoir targets. The drill holes will be 4-1/2 inches in diameter and 300 feet deep. Henderson assured the audience that once testing was complete, there would be little sign the drilling ever took place except for a small cement plug over the hole. Neighbors have until late October to formally object to the test drilling.