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Colorado Mesa nets nearly $400,000 in geothermal funding

By DENNIS WEBB

Dennis.Webb@gjsentinel.com

Colorado Mesa University has been awarded nearly $400,000 in new funding to help continue growing its leading-edge geothermal system.

The Colorado Energy Office is providing the funding as part of $7.7 million in grant awards announced last week to advance the use of geothermal technology in the state. The funding will go to 35 projects involving things such as installing geothermal heat pumps in buildings, studying and developing interconnected geothermal systems known as thermal energy networks between buildings, and testing and confirming geothermal resources for electricity generation.

The office of Gov. Jared Polis said in a news release that grant recipients are expected to invest more than $100 million into the projects to leverage the state investment.

CMU is receiving $210,493.50 to go toward the installation of the Fine Arts Building connection to the university’s geothermal grid. Another $187,500 will be used for the design of the building conversion and geothermal connections to bring the Tolman Hall student dormitory onto the geothermal exchange system.

CMU’s geothermal system is the largest in the Intermountain West, tapping heat underground and helping meet heating and cooling needs on campus. Currently, 2.5 miles of central loop pipe connect 16 buildings, or 70% of the buildings on campus.

The system reduces carbon dioxide emissions on the campus by 9,000 metric tons a year, saves $1.5 million in energy costs annually and saves students about 2% in tuition costs.

The new funding comes on top of $6 million in previous state funding, matched by $3 million from CMU, that has been allocated for expansion of the university’s geothermal system. That expansion will begin this summer.

“The expansion of CMU’s geo-exchange system is a tangible example of how we’re bringing our campus values to life,” CMU President John Marshall said in a prepared statement Thursday in response to the approval of the new grant funding. “By saving millions of dollars annually in energy costs, we’re able to keep tuition affordable for students who are seeking an opportunity for a better life through education.”

Polis, who has previously touted CMU’s geothermal system, said in his office’s news release about the new state grants, “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.”

Among other projects winning grants, the University of Colorado Boulder received $675,000 to conduct feasibility and design studies for two geothermal projects, and Mt. Princeton Geothermal LLC received $500,000 to support drilling of a well to better understand the geology of the hot-springrich Mount Princeton area outside Buena Vista and its geothermal energy opportunities.

Projects in Carbondale, Pitkin County, Crested Butte and Rico are among others also receiving grants.

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