Energy & Natural Resources
Coal & Methane
The history of Trinidad-Las Animas County is intrinsically tied to the mining industry, and in particular coal extraction from the Raton Basin. Although coal deposits have been developed since 1873, their use in the past few decades has been greatly reduced. This situation was exacerbated by the closing of steel plants that used the coal from the basin. Presently, coal mining is gradually being replaced by the development coalbed methane in the Vermejo and Raton Formations. Methane has been proven by operators, like Pioneer Natural Resources, to be a potential source of clean energy for the next few decades.
Trinidad-Las Animas County sits at the forefront of renewable energy development. Colorado was the first state to approve a Renewable Energy Standard, which has helped drive the industry as a whole. There are over 400 companies in the state that employ approximately 6,000 Coloradans in the renewable energy industry, ranking it 7th in nation.
Breaking it down further, according to Solar Industries Association, Colorado ranks 9th in solar. Meanwhile the U.S. Department of Energy ranks Colorado 7th in wind power generation capacity installed, and 10th for total installed wind power capacity as of September 2015.
Additionally, Trinidad-Las Animas County also has significant biomass and geothermal production potential. Based on Colorado State Forest Service estimates, approximately 25% of Colorado’s 24 million acres of forest and ranch land have a high or moderate potential for future biomass production, with a typical yield in the Front Range of four to ten dry tons of biomass per acre per year.
When it comes to geothermal, the Raton Basin is a recognized hot basin at shallow depths, referred to as a thermal resource. Geothermal is an attractive alternative to fossil fuels as its potentially inexhaustible, clean, and offers 24/7 base load energy unlike solar and wind. Developing this renewable resource would also add power to local grids and help meet energy portfolio goals and develop carbon-free alternatives.
Spotlight: San Isabel Solar Project
The San Isabel Solar Project, located approximately 20 miles north of Trinidad and 10 miles southeast of Aguilar. Energy company officials, regional business and government leaders and guests shared a memorable moment as the $50 million facility with 120,000 photovoltaic solar panels was formally opened on Friday, July 14.
The solar project was built by Juwi Inc, a Boulder-based developer, engineering, procurement and construction contract and operator of large scale renewable energy generation facilities. Ownership was transferred to Power Service Energy Group Solar Source, an independent power provider from New Jersey.
PSEG is selling the energy produced by the 30-megawatt to Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, a nonprofit wholesale power supplier in Westminster, Colorado that serves 1.5 million consumers in Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming and New Mexico through 44 electric cooperatives and public power districts.
Spotlight: Peak View Wind Project
The 60 megawatt Peak View Wind project is located along the border between Huerfano and Las Animas counties. The project allowed Black Hills Energy to reduce the amount of natural gas it burns reducing carbon dioxide emissions by about $2.4 million tons. This has helped Colorado achieve compliance with the federal Clean Power Plan that aims to significantly reduce carbon emissions. Additionally, in the first 20 years of Peak View Wind’s operation, customers are expected to save over $37 million. The wind farm is has been operating late 2016.
Black Hills Energy is an electric and gas utility serving Pueblo and other southern Colorado communities. Black Hills Energy customers benefit from the Peak View Wind project in the form of improved air quality, reduced water usage, reduced health impacts, and the financial savings this wind energy. Plans are underway to expand the Peak View Wind project in western Las Animas County.
Spotlight: Pioneer Geothermal Research
Starting in 2010, Pioneer Natural Resources began exploring the potential pros and cons of harvesting geothermal power in the Raton Basin, which has its sources as heat energy stored in the earth. The basin is a recognized hot basin at shallow depths – referred to as a thermal resource. Pioneer has investigated just how hot the basin is, how deep they have to drill to access the heat, and whether the rock at these depths is suitable for a geothermal project. The work done thus far focused on fact gathering in order to develop a detailed assessment of the physical and economic potential before moving forward with an actual project.
Geothermal is a very attractive alternative to fossil fuels as it is potentially inexhaustible, clean, and offers 24/7 base-load energy which other popular alternatives like solar and wind cannot. Developing this renewable resource would also add power to local grids and help meet energy portfolio goals and develop carbon-free alternatives. Pioneer has had a lot of support from the Governor’s Energy Office as well as the Colorado Geological Survey, with whom they worked closely on the preliminary evaluation phase. In an effort to further enhance the company’s base knowledge and help assess the Raton Basin potential, they also worked with the Colorado School of Mines and Southern Methodist University.
In 2017, Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers in multiple disciplines paid a field visit to Pioneer Natural Resources as part of a new Technologist in Residence (TIR) program. The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy established the TIR program in 2015 as part of its Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative to foster more high-impact collaborative research and development between the nation’s science laboratories and private industry.