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Snohomish PUD drilling for geothermal energy in Cascades

Graphic from the Snohomish County PUD brochure on its geothermal projects.

The same forces of nature that create natural hot springs and volcanoes may soon become a source of electricity in Snohomish County. The county’s Public Utility District has broken ground on a deep geothermic well, just north of the town of Skykomish.

The exploratory well is the first of its kind in Washington. 

The well is located at Garland Mineral Springs near Stevens Pass. It’s the site of a dilapidated old resort that once took advantage of hot springs there. 

Now, the molten lava deep beneath the earth is being eyed for its potential to power steam turbines. Steve Klein, the general manager of Snohomish PUD, says it’s one of five sites in the county where they’ve already dug down 700 feet .

“Filled it up with water, came back a month later and dropped the temperature gauge down where we plotted depth to temperature increase. ”

The data that resulted on the Garland Mineral Springs site is promising enough for the utility to spend up to $3-million. It’s digging as far as a mile into the earth’s core to get to the heat they think is there.

“It went up such that when we hit 3-5,000 feet we should in fact hit the temperature we need. But until you actually do it, you don’t know. ”

Klein says the risk of that uncertainty is the about the only down side to the geothermal well they have in mind, which would pump steam though generating turbines and back into the earth. 

If it’s a success, it would produce 20-50 megawatts of electricity, enough to power at least 15,000 homes. It might be online two or three years from now. They should know sometime  next month whether it’s a go.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment beat for KNKX, where she has worked since 1999. From 2000-2012, she covered the business and labor beat. Bellamy has a deep interest in Indigenous affairs and the Salish Sea. She has a masters in journalism from Columbia University.
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