As Colorado moves towards renewable energy, geothermal power is emerging as a promising contender. The small town of Pierce will soon be at the forefront of this green energy revolution, with new geothermal projects set to test the state's vast geothermal potential.

To explore the most effective technologies, the Colorado Energy Office is distributing $7.7 million in grants to companies and institutions dedicated to studying and implementing geothermal solutions. This initiative is part of a broader effort by Colorado Governor Jared Polis, who refers to geothermal energy as “the heat beneath our feet” and has prioritized its development to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Governor Polis emphasized the significance of this initiative, stating, “Developing Colorado’s geothermal energy resources is essential for achieving net-zero emissions while creating stable, good-paying jobs in just transition communities and ensuring affordable and reliable access to clean energy for all Coloradans.”

Two companies, Gradient Geothermal and Geothermal Technologies, will receive state grants to test their methods in Pierce, a small town of about 1,000 residents. Pierce Mayor Cathy Ortiz is hopeful that these projects will bring new job opportunities to the town, which is currently dominated by agriculture and oil and gas operations. “We would like to see that go forward and think it would be great for the town,” she said.

Geothermal Technologies CEO Gary McDaniel plans to study the geothermal potential of the Denver-Julesburg Basin and build a geothermal power plant near Pierce. “This technology is going to be a game changer in the renewable energy field,” McDaniel said, noting that geothermal energy provides a constant power source, unlike solar and wind energy.

McDaniel also pointed out that a geothermal power plant has minimal environmental impact. After the initial drilling, there would be “no air emissions, no water emissions, no noise.” This aspect is particularly appealing to Pierce residents like Ortiz, who lives near an old, capped oil well. She is eager to see these unused wells repurposed for geothermal energy production.

Gradient Geothermal, led by COO Johanna Ostrum, will focus on reusing these old wells. Ostrum, who transitioned from an oil and gas engineer to a geothermal advocate, sees this as a pathway for the oil and gas industry to move towards decarbonization. “Drilling for geothermal energy uses the same skills as drilling for oil or gas,” she explained.

The company plans to determine if the wells can produce power and explore potential benefits for the community, such as heating local schools or sidewalks. Ostrum described the process as similar to using an air conditioner in reverse, capturing thermal energy from hot water to generate electricity without emissions.

These projects in Pierce are expected to demonstrate the viability and benefits of geothermal energy, potentially leading to more job opportunities for geothermal drillers nationwide as the industry gains traction. As geothermal energy becomes more widely accepted and proven, it could pave the way for extensive drilling projects across the country.

For Pierce and its residents, the experimental plans bring excitement and hope for economic growth. “I love the town, and I care for the people, and I want to see the best for the town,” Ortiz said.

This development in Pierce highlights the potential for geothermal energy to play a significant role in the future of renewable energy, offering new opportunities for drillers and advancing the industry's growth. As geothermal projects like these expand, they promise to create a ripple effect of benefits, from job creation to sustainable energy solutions.