Community Geothermal Energy

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John Robb:

"More than half of all energy usage (not cars and not electricity) is dedicated to heating and cooling of structures (homes and businesses). This expense can be radically reduced by using geothermal heat (50-70 percent). Here's how it works:

  • The ground below ~6 feet stays at a relatively constant temperature between 40 degrees and 60 degrees F, depending on the area in which you live.
  • If you drill a well (the most efficient method to tap geothermal), you can insert a plastic pipe that allows you to pump anti-freeze fluid into the hole. This system, which costs VERY little to operate, uses the earth's energy to either heat or cool the fluid to the geographies standard temperature. The system is nearly maintenance free.
  • Warmed water from the geothermal system can be used to make heat-pumps very efficient. Cooled water from the system can be used, with a forced air fan, to cool a home.

How it works

The biggest expense in any geothermal system is drilling the wells. Costs are excessive (and can run to $10,000 a home). Fortunately, a volunteer effort very much like a local fire department can accomplish this at a small fraction of this cost. Elements include:

  • Drilling rig. Excellent used drilling trucks sell between $50-100 thousand. Leases are much less. There are open source alternatives that can cost MUCH less in the works.
  • Training. For most communities, the level of training necessary to run drilling equipment fast and efficiently isn't difficult.
  • Financing of in-house heating/cooling equipment to connect to ground loop stub. Relatively low cost. Community discounts possible. Payback in measured in a handful of years.