When you think about geothermal power you may think of giant installations benefiting from the heat the earth produces; however much smaller geothermal setups exist. These smaller systems are often called geoexchanges since they cycle heat from the ground to the building above or vice versa. Small residential systems can take a long time to recoup the costs of installation and demand for these small systems keeps increasing. Larger installations for condo buildings can see positive returns very quickly due to the sheer quantity of energy those buildings need. The good news here is that more and more condos are looking to this more sustainable source of heating and cooling.
Lloyd Jacobs, general manager of FortisBC Alternative Energy Services, which has installed geothermal systems in dozens of multi-residential buildings in B.C., said there is “a huge demand” for alternative heating systems in large buildings that might have been heated by fossil fuels or baseboard heaters in the past.
Traditionally, a challenge for geothermal energy is the high cost of digging and installing the borefield — that is, the liquid-filled underground loops that store and supply the heating and cooling to the system.
But Martin Luymes, vice-president of government relations for the Heating Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada, said those upfront expenses are now offset by savings from things like lower energy and maintenance costs in as little as three to five years for large buildings.
Geothermal energy is very simple in principal: drill a hole into the hot earth and use the naturally occurring heat to get turbines spinning. In practice it can be very hard. To bridge the practical difficulties getting geothermal around the world running leaders behind the technology are gathered in Florence to discuss ways to accelerate adoption. They are in the process of creating a framework to share knowledge and expertise to ensure that this form of renewable energy gets used in more places.
From their press release:
Minister of Environment, Mr. Gian Luca Galletti stated: “Italy considers the Paris Agreement to be irreversible and non-negotiable and therefore strives to promote geothermal and other renewable energy sources as a vital component for the planet’s sustainable development.”
“Geothermal’s vast potential is currently untapped,” he continued. “We must develop new technologies and encourage new investments to ensure we cover this gap. The Alliance will multiply its efforts to guide this process, and Italy will provide its contribution with its long experience and know-how.”
Ms. Teresa Bellanova, Italy’s Vice Minister of Economy and Development, said: “Geothermal energy’s consistent and continuous availability make it a highly precious source of renewable energy both in Italy and many countries all over the world. Through our knowledge of the industry, Italy can play an important role in achieving the ambitions of the Paris Agreement, in addition to stimulating sustainable job creation.”
Director General of IRENA, Mr. Adnan. Z. Amin, said: “This meeting has, without question, allowed both the policy and industry communities to identify common ground in the pursuit of what is a renewable energy source with tremendous potential.
“If we can identify and implement mechanisms that deliver a greater level of certainty to investors and developers, then we will move beyond meaningful dialogue to decisive action that accelerates geothermal production,” continued Mr. Amin, “contributing significantly to decarbonisation of the global economy, whilst creating jobs and supporting growth around the world.”
Geothermal energy is one of the most sustainable energy sources because it works off of heat transferring from the ground to your home. In Iceland, the majority of the electricity comes from geothermal energy because the country sits in a prime location. You can make use of geothermal energy at your home in a much smaller way.
Iceland recently demonstrated that it’s not only possible to use the core of our planet to generate power, but it’s feasible. Iceland’s geothermal operations are the envy of the world and they tend to push boundaries in their search for more energy. Due to this recent development geothermal operations in places like Hawaii are looking to build their own power plants.
The borehole is located in Krafla, in northeast Iceland, near a volcanic crater. The hole created a shaft with high-pressure, super-heated steam that could power a nearby electrical plant, the project leaders said.
“According to the measured output, the available power was sufficient to generate up to 36 megawatts electricity, compared to the installed electrical capacity of 60 megawatts in the Krafla power plant,” IDDP stated in a document.
Geothermal power generation has been used all over the world and can be used for power generation of small and large power plants. It can be a local installation that powers a house to mega projects like those in Iceland that can power cities. In the USA there are two projects underway that are designed to test and demonstrate how easy and productive geothermal energy can be.
The first is a community-scale geothermal project in Massachusetts. We’ve heard a lot about community-scale solar PV projects, but community geothermal is also starting to emerge. New England Renewable Energy Systems has installed a community geothermal project in Provincetown, Massachusetts that uses a single loop field to heat and cool ten homes. The system has 19 vertical bores that supply 44 tons of geothermal heat pumps, or about 154 kilowatts of capacity. The challenge for community-scale geothermal, like community-scale renewables generally, is coordinating the investment among homeowners. But the benefit is clear: Homeowners participating in the program can pool their resources with others and save about $2,000 per year in heating costs from avoiding burning oil.