Photo: Toni Boyd, assistant director of the Oregon Institute of Technology (OIT) Geo-Heat Center, stands in the OIT Power Plant/Photo courtesy of Oregon Institute of Technology

Alternative energy in Klamath Falls, Ore., has always been a hot topic.

The city, with its high-desert landscape, sits above natural geothermal springs, which residents have used for 100 years to heat their homes. Hot rocks and geysers keep the sidewalks warm when the winter comes and pump heat into buildings downtown.

But now, as states try to harness the wind and absorb the sun to produce power in new, greener ways, Klamath Falls plans to tap into the same geothermal pocket to generate electricity. After receiving an $800,000 grant in stimulus funds from the U.S. Department of Energy, city officials are moving forward with a $1.6 million project that will convert excess geothermal energy into power for the grid, according to City Manager Jeff Ball.

"It further puts the community in a leadership role in the use of geothermal energy in the country," Ball said. "We are going to use the power first to run pumps in the system. Anything over and above that will be sold back to the grid."

For a long time, there were only four states that generated geothermal power: California, Nevada, Utah and Hawaii. But over time, more states found the solution to shrink their carbon footprints. Across the country, states such as New Mexico, Wyoming, Idaho, Arkansas and Oregon realized that geothermal power provided an energy source that is much cleaner and more reliable than fossil fuels.

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Russell Nichols  |  Staff Writer