OLYMPIA – Legislation to further study and incentivize the development of geothermal energy sources in was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday.

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 production has great potential to help Washington’s transition to a clean energy future, and this bill will help our state complete the necessary mapping, build relationships with the tribes, and provide a 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 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).

Washington is one of several states to recently pass legislation expanding efforts to add geothermal power to the electrical grid.

In 2014, the WGS used a federal grant to gather data and create a favorability map. Three areas were identified with good potential for development of geothermal electric power: south of Mount Baker, north of Mount St. Helens, and along the Wind River area east of Vancouver. In 2017, additional funding helped drill three vertical test holes.

“We know our state has great geothermal energy potential, and this legislation is another step toward providing communities with a cleaner and more reliable energy source,” Lovelett said.