On Aug 15, a pipeline carrying energy-related fluids broke in downtown Boise. The resulting spill closed 13th Street between Main and Grove for a few hours as workers stemmed the flow of hot water. Thankfully, the pipeline carries hot water for Boise’s geothermal heating system. Instead of  volatile natural gas exploding or oil fouling our waters, a geothermal leak just results in a few hours’ delay for the repair and cleaner streets from the hot water rinse.

Idaho has a long history of tapping our geothermal resources to provide reliable, carbon-free power. Since the 1880s, Boise has been home to a few districts that tap hot water underground to heat everything from homes along Warm Springs to small offices like ICL’s and familiar icons like the downtown YMCA, Boise City Hall and the Capitol. The system continues to grow by  expanding to Boise State University and downtown buildings like the Simplot Headquarters. If you’re in the downtown area, tapping into the geothermal system is a terrific way to cut your carbon footprint.

The Boise system uses  geothermal water directly to heat buildings. Idaho also has power plants that turn hot water into clean power. The Raft River plant in South Idaho has been generating power for a few years. Idaho-based U.S. Geothermal owns that plant, along with the Neal Hot Springs plant near Valmy, Ore., which supplies clean power to Idaho. These plants provide steady, reliable power that nicely complements our solar and wind resources.

By using  Idaho’s own clean energy resources, we can cut carbon pollution while powering our lives. Idaho has a unique opportunity to tap our geothermal energy, both directly to heat homes and through power plants to produce electricity. Despite its  many benefits, development of this resource can harm our groundwater, wildlife and scenic areas. The Idaho Conservation League knows that-so we assess geothermal projects carefully to protect Idaho’s natural values as  these resources  are tapped as  we move toward a  clean energy future.