$0.5 million grant application submitted to U.S. DOE for Rico Community Geothermal Heating and Cooling Design

· Geothermal
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Community-driven effort recruits a team of academic & industry experts to prepare grant application for Rico project planning & design


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Excerpt from Geothermal Resources of the United States map
prepared by National Renewable Energy Laboratory - Golden, Colorado
- Rico location added by Ore Cart



Working through the first several months of 2022 to review grant funding research & development options, and possible R&D partners, Rico Geothermal Coalition energy interest group identified a community heating and cooling opportunity announced July 12 by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) - Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).

R&D partner Petrolern, a subsurface engineering company with international scope and DOE grants experience, applied for the community geothermal grant October 11, with significant input from Rico Geothermal Coalition organizer Teal Stetson-Lee.

Other Rico Geothermal Coalition members recruited to represent the community and provide insights are: site owners David Bulson and Michelle Haynes, communications expert Todd Gillman, and Ore Cart local news publisher & retired electric utility engineer Allyn Svoboda.

Rico Geothermal Coalition's scoping process included:

- a Geothermal Workshop at Rico with research experts and the local group

- weekly “Geothermal Cafe” video-conferences with academic research and industry experts

- U.S. Department of Energy video-conference presentations describing the grant opportunity and application process.

Colorado academic researchers assisted with goal-setting, grants search, and grant application:

- Dr. Masami Nakagawa - formerly of Colorado School of Mines at Golden and director of past Rico geothermal field research which concluded in 2018 with a final report.

- Dr. Holly Brunkal of Western Colorado University at Gunnison - DOE grant application "Academic Lead"



Develop, design, and install process

The U.S DOE - EERE - Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO) described the purpose of the July 2022 Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA):

The FOA will support the formation of U.S.-based community coalitions that will develop, design, and install community geothermal heating and cooling systems that supply at least 25% of the heating and cooling load in communities. Eligible applications must demonstrate that switching to geothermal district heating and cooling system would result in greenhouse gas emission reductions for the community where the system is installed.


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U.S. DOE Community Geothermal grant application cover page showing timeline. The instructions are 83 pages in length. U.S. DOE expects to announce grant awardees March 2023.



Project organizer Teal Stetson-Lee described project goals in an October 21, 2021 email:

. . . goal of Phase I is to assess our ability to use our hydro geothermal resource as well as ground source heat pumps for a town district heating and cooling zone, approximately 25% of the town. This district will most likely include the commercial district and town buildings and, hopefully 3-4 blocks of residential on either side. This assessment will look at infrastructure, geology and community receptivity.

There will be no test wells drilled in Phase I.

We will mainly focus on community outreach and education and stakeholder development. System design will be assessed simultaneously.

Part of the project has a strong academic focus in the continued development of the Rico Geothermal Academy. This is a mechanism for local workforce development through partnerships with Western Colorado University as the lead, and additional support from Fort Lewis College from Durango and Pueblo Community College in Durango, Mancos and Cortez. There will also be opportunity to partner with environmental and conservation organizations in Telluride.



Number and amount of grant awards

U.S. Department of Energy anticipates the number of grant awards, amounts, and time period for awardees to complete work:

Number of Awards
1 - 10

Award Size
for Any One Individual Award (Federal Share)
$300,000 - $700,000

Period of Performance
12 months



Grant awards will include rural, remote and urban communities

Excerpts below from U.S. DOE Community Geothermal application: pages 9 - 18:

To ensure diversity of community applications and maximize the range of test beds and case studies achieved through the FOA, coalitions should apply under one of the following three geographic sub-topic areas:

  1. Rural Communities: Towns/unincorporated areas with populations of less than 10,000 that do not fall within a metropolitan statistical area and are not remote, island, or islanded (see #2). . . .
  2. Remote/Island/Islanded Communities: Remote communities are geographically isolated from reliable grid transmission or population centers, resulting in limited access to centralized energy systems. Island communities are isolated from the mainland by waterways. Islanded communities are not grid-tied to large transmission-scale power systems, resulting in frequent issues with power quality or consistency.
  3. Urban/Suburban Communities: Cities/towns with populations of 10,000 or more and all communities located within a metropolitan statistical area as defined by OMB12 (Urban and Rural) that are not remote, island, or islanded.


Planning and design is first phase

. . . deployment requires a follow-up grant application


Planning and Design - Budget Period 1 (BP1): In the planning and design phase, coalitions will design a community-scale geothermal heating and cooling system(s) in a socio-economic and geographically diverse U.S. community where geothermal has high potential to reduce dependence on fossil fuels (e.g., natural gas, heating oil). Coalitions will work to finalize site location and footprint; assess the geothermal resource; analyze environmental and permitting needs; assess planned usage; conduct techno-economic feasibility analysis and local stakeholder engagement; and identify workforce and training development needs. . . .

Deployment - Budget Period 2 (BP2): Following a competitive down-select that would be based on work completed in BP1, selected coalitions will work to deploy community-scale geothermal heating and cooling system(s) in their identified U.S. communities; conduct workforce training and development activities; and collect and disseminate site data to promote geothermal heating and cooling deployment in similar communities elsewhere in the United States.

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"Roles" each coalition must include in their grant applications

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  1. Community team member(s) who understands and can communicate the energy, environmental, economic, social, and/or other relevant needs that the proposed system would address, as well as local development and regulatory requirements. Examples include local community leadership groups; local planning, zoning, and code officials; community-based organizations; local environmental justice organizations; state, local, and Tribal governments; building owners and developers. 
  2. Workforce team member(s) who know the community labor market and are capable of helping the coalition with apprenticeship opportunities, job placement, and developing training or lesson plans for the applicable trades. Examples include private companies, trade schools, universities, Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) and other institutions with expertise in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) or energy system development; local unions with relevant technical expertise; non-profits with experience in energy system workforce programs.
  3. Analysis/Design team member(s) who have experience designing geothermal systems as well as analyzing the economic and technical aspects of such systems. Examples include geothermal and district energy subject matter experts certified in geothermal heat pump design and installation; national labs with technical and economic analysis capabilities related to geothermal systems; MSIs and other institutions with expertise in HVAC or energy system development; engineers, operations researchers, architects, energy modelers, district system design consultants, energy utilities, and site planners.
  4. Deployment team member(s) who have experience building new or retrofitting existing energy systems. Examples include private or non-profit organizations with demonstrated experience deploying relevant geothermal heating and cooling technologies in similar settings.



U.S. DOE goals for community geothermal

Proposed community-scale and community-driven activities in defined U.S. geographic sub-topic areas . . . must address the following FOA goals:

  1. Deploy new or retrofitted geothermal, or geothermal-hybrid, district heating and cooling systems in U.S. districts, neighborhoods, and communities
  2. Identify solutions for environmental justice conditions, such as cumulative environmental pollution and other hazards; underserved and disadvantaged communities; and community members who have historically experienced vulnerability due to climate change impacts
  3. Assist U.S. communities to develop career and technical education and workforce transition initiatives to design, install, inspect, operate, and maintain new energy systems such as geothermal heating and cooling
  4. Develop U.S. case studies about projects, including technical and economic data, to illustrate how projects can be replicated by communities throughout the United States
  5. Publish data and information about U.S. geothermal district heating and cooling system deployment to demonstrate the success of such systems in a range of environments and geographies.

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Expanding geothermal energy opportunities throughout the United States

To ensure communities in diverse conditions are considered and the range of test beds and case studies achieved through the FOA are maximized, coalitions must apply under one of three U.S. geographic sub-topic areas - rural, remote/island/islanded, or urban/suburban. . . .

This community geothermal initiative also directly addresses GTO’s programmatic goal of expanding geothermal energy opportunities throughout the United States. The selected communities will span socio-economic and geographic differences across the country. The aim will be to develop a repeatable set of test cases that other communities will be able to duplicate while simultaneously helping disadvantaged communities improve their chances at becoming more resilient to energy disruptions and economic downturns. GTO also seeks to expand strategic partnerships to increase geothermal system application use nationwide. Work under this FOA will develop partnerships, case studies, and broader strategies that emphasize the value of geothermal energy systems. Conveying this value to the broader public can help spark interest and expand geothermal resource use for the benefit of communities. Increasing partnerships—and, in turn, public awareness—can reduce risk and help develop new funding strategies. . . .