OLYMPIA – Legislation to further study and incentivize the development of geothermal energy sources passed the Washington State Senate on a unanimous vote Monday.

Senate Bill 6039, sponsored by Sen. Liz Lovelett (D-Anacortes), directs the Washington Geological Survey (WGS) to update mapping and compile a public database of subsurface geologic information while also creating grant programs to support geothermal exploration and individual tribal consultation.

“Geothermal energy has the potential to meet some of Washington’s future clean energy demands, and this bill will help our state accelerate the necessary mapping, build relationships with the tribes, and provide a possible path to new, clean baseload energy in the coming years,” Lovelett said.

Geothermal resources encompass a variety of thermal energy sources that rely on heat stored beneath the Earth’s surface. The bill would create a competitive grant program to incentivize and offset costs associated with deep exploratory drilling to identify locations suitable for development.

The legislation also directs the state Department of Ecology to consult with participating tribes and to identify opportunities and risks associated with the development of geothermal resources.

Companion legislation (HB 2129) in the House was sponsored by Lovelett’s seatmate, Rep. Alex Ramel (D-Bellingham).

In 2014, the WGS used a federal grant to gather data and create a favorability map. Three areas with high favorability were identified: south of Mount Baker, north of Mount St. Helens, and along the Wind River Valley. In 2017, additional funding helped drill three vertical test holes.

“Our state has already started to explore its geothermal energy potential, and it’s time to speed up that work so we can provide communities with a cleaner and more reliable energy source,” Lovelett said.