The development of geothermal energy resources for utility production in the United States began in the 1960’s. Since that time, the continual development of geothermal resources and technology has positioned the US as a leader in the global industry. The US currently has approximately 3187 MW of installed geothermal capacity, more than any other country in the world.
Even though the economy has been slow the past few years, a report from the Geothermal Energy Association indicated that the industry grew in 2011, adding approximately 91 MW of geothermal capacity. In 2012, it is estimated that 100 MW is expected to become available.
By implementing geothermal heat pumps in a commercial or residential building, you can help increase the usage of the renewable energy. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has called ground source heat pumps the “most energy-efficient, environmentally clean, and cost-effective space conditioning systems available”.
During the summer when the temperature of the building exceeds that of the ground, heat pumps are used to pump heat from the building, through narrow pipes, and into the ground so that the heat can be dissipated in the earth. When the temperature of the building falls below the ground temperature the process works in reverse. Heat pumps extract heat from the ground and use it to heat the building.
Heat pumps offer significant emission reductions, particularly where they are used for both heating and cooling, and where the electricity is produced from renewable resources. The setup costs for a geothermal heat pump are typically higher than for conventional systems, but the difference is usually returned in energy savings. Also, certain approved geothermal heat pumps can qualify for a federal tax credit.