A groundbreaking geothermal heating and cooling project shows that these super-efficient heat pumps are gaining tractionby Christopher Williams
Construction of the largest ground-source geothermal heating and cooling system in the United States is now underway and half complete.
The project, located on the Muncie, Indiana campus of Ball State University, will be large enough to heat and cool 47 buildings, replace four coal-fired boilers, and save the campus roughly $2 million a year over the 30-year life of the system.
The project will also help create 2,300 direct and indirect jobs throughout the construction period.
This is great news for a technology that has been available, efficient and economical since the 1940′s. In 1993, the EPA called it “the most efficient, environmentally clean, and cost effective space conditioning system today.” While the technology has been known for decades, the size of the Ball State project proves that geothermal installers and designers are gaining confidence to implement the technology on a massive scale and are winning the trust of risk-averse property owners.
The role of ground source heat pumps in the U.S.
Geothermal, or ground source heat pumps, can play a critical role in changing the U.S. energy mix by reducing the use of petroleum, coal and gas for on-site heating and cooling applications. The technologies we tend to think of when we use the term “renewable energy” — solar PV, wind, and hydro — usually do nothing to address thermal energy, which makes up roughly one third of our nation’s energy use.
For example, space heating represents 45% of energy use in the average single-family home in the U.S. — by far the single biggest use of energy for consumers. But consumers tend to think mostly about renewable electricity technologies, rather than heating and cooling technologies. Geothermal heat pumps can eliminate the need for on-site fossil fuel use for the heating of a property, particularly in the Northeast, where fuel oil is used to heat a large percentage of buildings.
The state of the geothermal heat pump industry
“Geothermal heat pump technology has grown to a point where people are beginning to understand what it is, what it offers in terms of benefits over conventional systems and that it can be successfully implemented at all levels, from the smallest single family residence to the large-scale retrofit at Ball State,” says Ryan Carda a geothermal engineering expert who co-founded Geo-Connections and who co-authored the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association (IGSHPA) manual on geothermal design and installation. end quote from:Construction of the Largest U.S. Geothermal Heat Pump System Underway
Since Geothermal is one source that is potentially everywhere on earth if someone digs deep enough into the earth, it is a likely source of power for as long as the earth exists right along with solar power and wind power. Breaking down water into Hydrogen and oxygen and burning the two or turning water into fuel cells on one level is helpful and on another level it ends that waters existence to be recycled back into water for ocean, rivers, lakes, dams, clouds, rain and snow. So, even though burning hydrogen and oxygen from water is very tempting, in the end it just will tend to end life on earth from a lack of water. But geothermal is basically unlimited under the crust of the earth and closer to the surface in volcanic places where it comes closer to the surface in magma and heated water. So, anywhere people are over land, potentially geothermal energy could be tapped eventually for individual or public usage.