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Idaho Geothermal Resources
322 E. Front St
PO Box 83720
Boise, Idaho 83720-0098
Ph: (208) 287-4800
Fx: (208) 287-6700 geothermalInfo@idwr.idaho.gov
A Brief History of Geothermal Use and Development in Idaho
Idaho has a rich history of geothermal use beginning with Native Americans who congregated at hot springs as indicated by artifacts and petroglyphs on nearby rocks. Hot springs were also used by settlers, miners, and trappers by the mid 1,800ís. In 1892, the nationís first district heating system was birthed in Boise (Figure 1). The system is still in operation and has been joined by three more district heating systems in the Boise area.
Figure 1. The Natatorium was a landmark in Boise that used geothermal water for recreation for over 40 years. The Natatorium was part of the Warm Springs Water District which has been in operation since 1892.
Photo credit: Idaho State Historical Society (73-2.52)
Some commercial geothermal resorts and spas have been around in Idaho since the late 1,800ís and early 1,900ís. In 1930, Edwardís Greenhouses became the first commercial greenhouse operation in the United States to use geothermal water for a heat source to grow plants. Several other greenhouse businesses were developed throughout southern Idaho in the next half decade to take advantage of the natural hot water.
In 1973, Leo Ray became the first person to use geothermal water to raise catfish in Idaho. Several other aquaculture businesses are currently in operation raising tilapia, ornamental fish, and reefs with geothermal water.
In the late 1970ís and early 1980ís, the energy crunch stimulated the development of five district heating systems in Boise and Twin Falls, and a geothermal power plant project in the Raft River basin. In the 1980ís, pumpage led to declining water levels in some places, which prompted the IDWR to restrict additional geothermal developments in stressed areas such as Ada and Twin Falls Counties. During this time and into the 1990ís, geothermal development slowed except for domestic use for home heating.
In May, 2001, Senator Larry Craig sponsored a workshop for Idaho Geothermal Stakeholders in order to spur new interest in this renewable resource. Also in 2001, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded the Idaho Department of Water Resources a $75,000 grant to update the geothermal database, develop a geothermal website, and to evaluate some areas for potential power generation and direct use applications. Hopefully, this effort will result in new geothermal projects that will benefit the citizens of Idaho.
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