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City of Boise continues geothermal system upgrade amid two recent leaks

Plaques naming geothermal heat as a building's energy source are present throughout downtown Boise.
Sofia Blenkinsop
Boise State Public Radio
Plaques naming geothermal heat as a building's energy source are present throughout downtown Boise.

Boise is home to the largest geothermal system in the country, making Idaho a leader in geothermal energy use. Yet much of the infrastructure made to harness this energy, built in the 1980s, is nearing the end of its lifespan.

As a result, the network of pipes used to carry and heat water is more susceptible to leaks like those on Dec. 31, 2023 and Jan. 9, 2024.

“In both cases, the metal fittings that hold the two pieces of pipe together –– a bolt corroded in each case,” said Boise Public Works Geothermal Development Coordinator Tina Riley.

She says the City has been actively replacing an average of 1,500 linear feet of old pipes per year, with about half of the system upgraded so far.

The new pipes are made of high density polyethylene, which do not require metal fittings. According to Riley, this means leaks will be far less likely to occur moving forward.

By working with investors, developers and organizations like the Capital City Development Corporation, she added that the City plans to expand the geothermal system to provide energy to more buildings.

Riley says the unique energy source "checks so many boxes. It's sustainable, it's green, it's clean, it's affordable and it's local. And I think it provides a great sense of pride for Boise."

Hi! I’m Sofia Blenkinsop, a sophomore at Boise State thrilled to work with Boise State Public Radio. After co-founding a podcast club in high school and writing and editing for my school newspaper, I’m excited to gain newsroom experience with the wonderful folks here at BSPR.

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