Energy costs for heating and cooling continue to rise. To make informed energy choices, you need facts, not myths or sale pitches. The options can be confusing and misleading. Geothermal energy doesn't have to be complicated. Let us help by providing this overview of geothermal energy.
What is Geothermal?
Using internal heat from the earth as a source of power is called geothermal energy ("geo" meaning earth and "therme" meaning heat). The first 10 kilometers below the earth’s surface contain 50,000 times more energy than all the oil and natural gas resources in the world (Shere, 2013). People use this type of renewable energy to heat buildings, generate electricity and heat water. On a large scale, the electric utility/power grid industry utilizes it to run power plants.
Besides using the perpetual energy source to run power plants with steam produced by heated water, the earth’s energy can also be captured on a smaller scale using geothermal heat pumps, also known as ground-source heat pumps. The pumps use the year-round temperature of 50 to 55 degrees F that exists just a few feet below the ground’s surface. In general, a heat pump extracts heat and then transfers it.
Check out the various pump systems for harvesting geothermal energy.
Geothermal energy can be harnessed for residential, commercial and educational use. There are also specialized applications that work well for the Midwest, such as underground thermal storage and hybrid energy, that can be applied to the industrial, agriculture and aquaculture sectors.
The Illinois Geothermal Coalition presents a thorough review of geothermal applications for different commercial and industrial sectors in its whitepaper titled, Geothermal in the Midwest: Geothermal Energy and Its Potential Contribution to Clean Energy for Developing Communities and Illinois in the U.S. Midwest. Illinois Extension is a founding member of the Illinois Geothermal Coalition.
Geothermal is both renewable and efficient. It is can also be a major part of an individual, business or community resiliency plan. The Midwest is ideally suited for many geothermal applications, especially low temperature/direct use applications such as heating and cooling of buildings and heat for drying applications. Geothermal energy systems provide a constant source of heat or cooling 24 hours a day 365 days a year. Funding resources and tax incentives are available and increasingly available.
"To achieve the zero-carbon emission goals set forth by state and local governments in the U.S. Midwest that will move society away from a reliance on fossil fuels, we propose geothermal energy and geoexchange technologies as solutions that are renewable, have low carbon emissions, are relatively inexpensive considering the system life cycles, and are reliable and safe." Whitepaper.