My name is Hank Held. I grew up in Salida in the 1950’s and 60’s. My parents were both school teachers. My mom taught second grade and my dad taught music in the junior high and high school. The high school auditorium is still named in his honor.
Growing up, we had an old family cabin just above the cascades next to Chalk Creek, and we would spend much of our summers up there. I still bear a chipped front tooth from trying to build a log bridge across the river. I remember Romley when it was still standing. My brother and I would sit for hours in those hot geothermal pockets in the river below the Hot Springs. We loved the Chalk Creek Valley. Even as a boy, I wondered why someone didn’t do something to utilize the energy in those hot springs. Over the years, a couple of nurseries finally began using geothermal resources to grow flowers.
About 6 years ago I began to consider retirement. What would I do? The thought struck me to build a geothermal greenhouse somewhere near Mt. Princeton so that I could grow vine-ripened tomatoes in the middle of the winter. There is nothing I detest more than tasteless, green (gassed) tomatoes in my salad. Why bother?
As I began my research, the price of oil began to soar. I thought, “If we’re going to bring hot water to the surface, why can’t the geothermal hot water spin a turbine before we use it for something else?” I began bugging Mike Batzle at the Colorado School of Mines to teach me everything he knew about geothermal. At one point, he said, “You really need to meet Fred Henderson. He lives about 2 miles from Mt. Princeton, and he thinks the Mt. Princeton area holds a tremendous geothermal resource.”
Fred and I hit it off. He’s a fascinating guy with a Ph.D. from Harvard. Made his bones putting special lenses on U.S. satellites in order to identify mineral deposits on Earth. We agreed to split up responsibilities. I would continue to research the technical aspects of generating geothermal electric power, and Fred would dig deeper (sic) into the extent of the geothermal resources at Mt. Princeton.
I followed the demonstration of a new binary heat exchanger hooked to a turbine which generated enough electrical power to provide for the needs of a small resort in Alaska. Known as the CHENA Project, it utilized geothermal water at a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. This was the beginning of the binary geothermal electric power industry.
Fred was able to find a fellow by the name of Harry Olson, who had been the drilling superintendant for the many holes that AMAX (American Metal Climax, the company who owned the Climax mine) drilled in the 1970’s looking for geothermal steam, only to abandon their efforts when the price of oil recede. Harry directed us to the original well logs at the University of Utah. Together with Paul Morgan, who now works for the Colorado Geological Survey, Fred and Harry developed a theory that the geothermal resources at Mt. Princeton were perhaps hotter than anyone had originally estimated.
With technology allowing for electrical production at temperatures below boiling (212 degrees F), and the possibility that the water temperatures could be higher than boiling, we decided to proceed. We formed Mt. Princeton Geothermal, LLC. Fred is my partner.
We have held a series of neighborhood meetings to tell our neighbors at Mt. Princeton about our plans. Concerned neighbors raised legitimate questions regarding potential effects on ground water and visual and sound pollution. We are sensitive to these concerns and continue to develop alternative means to minimize or eliminate them. We will be utilizing new non-invasive technology being developed in some of the top universities in the United States to locate and map the geothermal reservoir beneath Mt. Princeton.
Please review our website as we explain geothermal electric power.