Friday, July 27, 2007

Cold cash to study hot springs

Ketchum to get federal grant for Cimino site study

Express Staff Writer

Money from a federal grant should be flowing soon so that Ketchum can look at ways geothermal power from a local hot spring might be harnessed for public benefit.

The city's Community Development Corporation signed a memorandum of understanding in March with the Jim Cimino family in Warm Springs to see how the Guyer Hot Springs on the Cimino property just west of the Warm Springs base of Bald Mountain might be used, said CDC Board President Neil Bradshaw.

Final paperwork for seed money for a $7,500 federal grant from the U.S. Department of Energy should be completed soon, said Gerry Galinato, environmental specialist with the energy division of the Idaho Department of Water Resources.

Galinato said he met with city officials several weeks ago. "They were trying to look for technical assistance."

Geothermal energy is heat (thermal) that comes from deep inside the earth's (geo) crust and is contained in rock and water that fills the fractures and pores within that rock. Studies show that Idaho may have a large untapped supply of geothermal energy (see related stories on pages 1 and 12).

There are differing opinions on the flow and temperature of the Guyer Springs, agreed Bradshaw and Galinato. A study would likely confirm those flow rates and temperatures.

Because of the way the collector system at the springs is designed "there is a lot of water that is not collected," Galinato said.

"There are many more conversations that need to take place to see what we can get out the resource,"said Bradshaw.

Andrew Chiasson, a mechanical engineer with the Oregon Institute of Technology's Geo-Heat Center, will come to Ketchum next month to consult on the Guyer Hot Springs and a separate project, Ketchum City Administrator Ron LeBlanc said this week. Chiasson will also advise the city on the feasibility of installing a geothermal heat pump that could be used for sidewalk snowmelt on the Fourth Street Heritage Corridor project.

The springs have been in his family for at least 20 years, said Jim Cimino during a recent, short telephone interview. "If the city can come up with some ideas we are amenable to it."

It would likely not be used for electrical production but for uses such as sidewalk snowmelt and heating pools, Bradshaw said.

Geothermal power is typically used for heating buildings, growing greenhouse plants and raising warm-water fish like Talapia as well as for recreational use, said Galinato.

Geothermal hot spring pools are nothing new to Ketchum. The Bald Mountain Hot Springs Motel was built here in 1929 heated by water transported three miles from Guyer Hot Springs to the "plunge" in Ketchum. The system later heated homes and water in the Ketchum area. After pipes deteriorated the "plunge" closed in 1988.

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