Published: May 24, 2024

CU Boulder today was awarded two grants totaling nearly $700,000 through the statewide Geothermal Energy Grant Program (GEGP) to determine whether geothermal energy is feasible for the campus. 

CU Boulder Chief Operating Officer Patrick O'Rourke and Colorado Gov. Jared PolisCU Boulder Chief Operating Officer Patrick O'Rourke speaks at a ceremonyCU Boulder Chief Operating Officer Patrick O'Rourke speaks at a ceremony

“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,” Gov. Jared Polis said.

Polis announced the award recipients at a ceremony in Pueblo on Friday.

“Geothermal energy has tremendous growth potential for application in the United States, and we are grateful to the state for this funding that will help us further explore the application of both geo-exchange and geothermal resources for the campus,” Chancellor Philip DiStefano said. “The proposed studies will advance CU Boulder’s energy and climate action goals as we seek to reduce climate impacts for the benefit of Colorado residents, CU Boulder students, faculty and staff, and the local and regional community.”

In support of CU Boulder's climate action goals, geothermal technology and solutions are being explored primarily for their greenhouse gas emissions reduction capabilities and energy-efficient improvements. CU Boulder’s goal is a 50% emissions reduction by 2030, with a clear path to meeting a zero emissions target no later than 2050. 

“CU Boulder is exploring an innovative approach to meet its sustainability goals and make the most of geothermal resources,” Colorado Energy Office Executive Director Will Toor said. “Full implementation of CU’s proposed projects to generate on-site electricity while providing efficient heating and cooling for campus buildings will set an example of what’s possible across our state using the heat beneath our feet.”

The Geothermal Community District Heating Detailed Design Study provides a grant of $499,999 to study the application of geothermal exchange for the Williams Village complex initially. If successful, the campus would create a geo-exchange to extract heating or cooling energy from existing ambient ground temperatures. The project may result in geothermal heating/cooling investment on campus to replace our dependence on steam and fossil fuel-generated heat. 

The Geothermal Electricity Generation Scope Study Project provides a grant of $175,092 to explore the availability and feasibility of using deep geothermal resources to generate heat and power for the campus. If deep geothermal resources are feasible, the study's results could lead to the addition of cogeneration plants on campus that produce geothermal energy and create new job opportunities. Electricity is produced from geothermal technology by sourcing high-temperature heat from deep down in the earth to create steam that is then converted into electricity.

“We are excited to begin work on our geothermal electricity generation scoping and community district heating design studies,” Vice Chancellor for Infrastructure and Sustainability Chris Ewing said. “We are thrilled to begin working with the Colorado Energy Office, RMH, Eavor Technologies, NREL, Major Geothermal and the Boulder community on these important studies and are excited about the opportunities that may be generated from them.”

The Colorado Energy Office received 40 applications for the GEGP and awarded a total of $7.7 million. CU Boulder plans to begin both studies in July or August 2024.