Pagosa Verde is the only Public/Private partnership in the State of Colorado for geothermal development. It involves Pagosa Verde, a privately owned business, the United States Department of Energy, the Colorado Energy Office, the Town of Pagosa Springs and Archuleta County.
This unique collaboration also combines technical assistance and funding from the Southwest Colorado Small Business Development Center and Region 9 Economic Development District of SW Colorado coming together to assist in the development of a significant natural resource in rural Colorado.
According to Jerry Smith, the Founder of Pagosa Verde, “the economic problems in rural areas like western Colorado are because the economy is based on commodity pricing. Everything is based on the weather – either for tourism or agriculture. The result is that Colorado land owners and the small businesses and communities experience periodic dips in income due to the price of oil, cattle or droughts.”
Jerry was tired of seeing people here be “land rich and cash poor.” He decided the best way to solve the problem is to use renewable energy to provide stable year-around income streams. Archuleta County has lots of geothermal heat, but nobody has explored how to use it – until Jerry Smith and his wife Sally High began their project.
Jerry started the business in 2009 and was a “one man show” until 2011. Region 9 then provided working capital for the project and purchased equity in the company in 2012. In 2014, SBDC Advisor, Tom Holcomb brought 25 years of expertise in management and business development in renewable energy and sustainability services. Tom assisted in the feasibility framework for the project.
There are hundreds of places in Colorado where hot water comes out of the ground. By combining the hot water with solar energy, Pagosa Verde’s team, has developed a system to provide affordable, renewable energy for sustainable agricultural projects that stimulate economic development.
Jerry has figured out a way to use the Earth’s heat to grow produce in greenhouses year around. By harnessing the Earth’s renewable energy to generate affordable heat, farmers can produce papayas or tomatoes that can be priced affordably. He has calculated that, “70% of the overhead cost of doing business is heat. If we can reduce that, we can generate income for land owners, create jobs and provide incentives for manufacturers to move into the area.”
According to Jerry, “a greenhouse employs eight full-time people per acre. By leveraging renewable assets, we’re providing a year around income stream for farmers out in the middle of no-where.”
New technologies are making geothermal possible. “The city of Pagosa, Archuleta County and Region 9 are bold and forward thinking. They are combining resources and skill sets to do something that’s important”, Jerry explains.