Geothermal heat pumps use the heat stored in the earth’s surface to heat homes and buildings. Even in the dead of winter, the temperature not very far below ground remains at a temperature typically in the 50s. Geothermal systems tap into this immense thermal resource. Conversely, this same temperature sink can be used to provide cooling during the summer. It takes electricity to run the heat pumps, but is vastly more efficient than using electricity directly to produce heat or to cool air.
As part of its Climate Change Action Plan, the province of Ontario identified geothermal heating as the go-to heating and cooling technology to reach its carbon reduction targets. The goal is to phase out combustion heating first by eliminating it in new construction by 2030, and outlawing it entirely by 2050.
Ontario legislators learned that the cost of installing natural gas pipelines into additional communities was enormous: some $25,000 per connection, which does not include the cost of furnaces, water heaters, or installation. Going geothermal eliminates these pipelines and the infrastructure costs are otherwise competitive.
Canada is not the only place focusing on geothermal energy. In January, New York City passed a law that requires all government buildings to go geothermal starting next year provided that the economic and environmental benefits meet certain criteria. Hundreds of buildings in the city are already geothermal and the city has a goal to see more than 900,000 of its buildings go geothermal by 2050. Recent examples are the Trevor Day School and St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Renewable energy sources and batteries are the path to eliminate burning fossil fuels for electricity and transportation. Geothermal technology is a way to eliminate combustion in heating our homes.
Photo, posted November 16, 2007, courtesy of Paul Hudson via Flickr.