Renewable energy has become the fastest-growing energy resource in the U.S. When people are asked to describe a renewable energy resource, the most common examples are wind, solar or hydropower -- things visible on landscapes. Perhaps the most effective, efficient and proven renewable energy source lies directly beneath our feet. It’s geothermal energy. The earth is a giant solar collector.
Like many things, out of sight can be synonymous with out of mind. Geothermal energy – heat within the earth – isn’t something we see or touch, but its incredible benefits command a seat at the table when discussing renewable energy. With a ground source heat pump (GSHP), electric cooperative members can tap into the benefits of down-to-earth renewable energy technology.
How Geothermal Energy Works
A geothermal heating and cooling system works on the simple fact that the earth below the frost line, typically a minimum of four feet down, is a constant temperature of around 55 degrees year-round. Since outdoor temperatures fluctuate with the changing seasons, but underground temperatures do not, geothermal systems (such as GSHPs) use a series of fluid-filled underground pipes that absorb solar energy stored in the earth and carry it indoors. Using refrigeration principles, heat can be taken from the ground and transferred through a heat pump to the air in your home during the winter. In the summer, the process is reversed, and the heat in your home is transferred to the ground to cool your home.
Unlike most other renewable energy technologies, geothermal can provide a consistent energy source that isn’t dependent on Mother Nature’s weather patterns, which makes it attractive for consistent use. This stability makes it a 24/7, continuously available renewable energy resource. That’s important since energy needs to be accessible when a member needs it. Other renewable resources don’t offer this same security. For example, sunshine is required for solar panels to generate energy efficiently, and certain wind speeds are necessary for energy production from wind turbines. These patterns don’t always line up with member-consumers’ demand. On cold winter days, the sun is not likely shining strong enough for extended durations of time sufficient to sustainably power electric appliances and furnaces. Because energy storage technology is not yet advanced enough to be economically viable for most people, consistent energy generation resources are necessary.
With interest in renewable energy on a steady incline, geothermal energy is experiencing a resurgence in popularity. However, electric cooperatives have a long and successful history of being at the forefront of tapping into its benefits. Callaway Electric Cooperative began educating the membership and rebating GSHPs as early as 1986.
Today, continual advances in technology make it easier than ever before to integrate GSHPs – a common geothermal energy technology – into individual homes and businesses. GSHPs should be considered a long-term investment. They’re built to last and have extremely long lifespans. Expect to get around 25 years out of indoor components, such as the heat pump and 50-plus years for ground loops.
Although installations are more expensive than a conventional HVAC system, GSHPs are up to 65% more efficient than traditional HVAC units and pay themselves back over time in energy savings, often times within 7 years. A GSHP has a SEER of 19 or greater. They achieve low operating costs to heat and cool a home as well as provide the hot water requirements because a GSHP does not produce heat, it simply transfers heat from the earth (solar collector) to your home. The result, for every $1 you invest in electricity you get $4-5 of heating/cooling plus hot water in your home – 24 hrs/day, 7 days/week, 365 days/year. No other renewable energy source offers this great of a value or reliability.
Through the end of 2022, there is a 26% tax credit for GSHP installation. Additionally, Callaway Electric Cooperative offers an $850/ton rebate for qualified GSHP installations. If you’re interested in considering a system and want to learn more, please contact our member service department or call 573-642-3326.