ARKANSAS, Oct 31 (Future Headlines)- The design phase has commenced for a geothermal heating and cooling demonstration project in Carbondale, Colorado. Test drilling for the project is expected to begin in November. The Carbondale Community Geothermal Coalition has been awarded a grant of $716,000 for the feasibility, modeling, design, and planning of a large-scale geothermal heating and cooling system intended to serve a 16-acre block of institutional and residential buildings.

Carbondale is among 11 communities across ten states that have received grants from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for the development and eventual deployment of community geothermal heating and cooling systems. This initiative, funded by the Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO), supports urban/suburban, rural, or remote community coalitions in the United States to develop, design, and install community geothermal heating and cooling systems capable of supplying at least 25% of a community’s heating and cooling load. Carbondale was one of four communities chosen in the ‘rural’ category.

The Carbondale Community Geothermal Coalition, led by the Clean Energy Economy for the Region (CLEER), includes the Town of Carbondale, the Third Street Center, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Garfield County Public Libraries District, Roaring Fork School District, and national geothermal consulting firm GreyEdge Group. Collaborations are also planned with Colorado Mountain College to explore opportunities for workforce training and development.

This project envisions a shared geothermal system for a proposed district stretching from the Third Street Center to the Carbondale Library, encompassing townhomes on 2nd Street. The area was chosen for its prominent location and diverse range of building types.

The system will comprise a field of numerous narrow boreholes interconnected to form a circuit spanning the district. Heat pumps will replace conventional furnaces and boilers in the buildings. Instead of relying on high-temperature water or steam, the system harnesses low-grade heat found underground across a wide area.

The Third Street Center plays a vital role in the project as it is already “net zero” in terms of electricity consumption but remains the largest energy consumer in the district due to its reliance on natural gas for heating. Dr. Jon Fox-Rubin, CLEER’s innovation manager, explains that this building “exemplifies both the town’s progress in clean energy and the potential for further improvement.”

Initially, the system will fulfill approximately half of the district’s heating and cooling requirements, with room for expansion to reach 100%. The project aims to demonstrate the feasibility of an economical geothermal heating and cooling system, even for older existing buildings. Retrofitting heating infrastructure in some of the buildings may take five years or longer to complete.

The work supported by the DOE grant is projected to be completed over the next year. After the design phase, additional funding may be secured during a second competitive phase initiated by the DOE.

Over the next year, the project team will assess the geothermal potential of the site, create a system model and design, develop retrofits for the buildings, and prepare a funding proposal for the DOE to build the system. Most of the DOE funding will be allocated to the team of engineering and building experts, as well as the test site drilling.

The plan includes drilling one or two test wells on the property adjacent to the Third Street Center, with a drilling company already contracted for the job. Thermal conductivity testing will be conducted to determine the thermal properties of the subsurface beneath the project site.

Carbondale Mayor Ben Bohmfalk expressed enthusiasm about the opportunity to showcase an innovative, impactful, clean energy solution in the town. He stated that this project would enable the exploration of an alternative approach to reduce or eliminate the dependence on natural gas for heating, contributing to a cleaner and more sustainable energy future.

Writing by Kevin Wood; Editing by Sarah White