Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Earth Energy

I’m back. The weekend before last I attended the Green Party of Canada Convention in Ottawa. I facilitated a policy workshop and took in the speeches and the usual hoop and howler one expects at a party convention. It was fun. I felt that I was part of history in the making. I’m also very confident that Elizabeth May will take the party to the next level.

Recently I took Jane to see Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. Please see this movie if you haven’t already. You’ll then realize why I email you weekly.

TO Think About This Week
Now that I’ve covered the sun and wind in my last installments, it’s about time I delve into the dark dank underworld. That’s right. This week is all about Geothermo.

Ah yes…geothermo. What is it? Our planet stores energy which comes from the sun, 50 percent of which is absorbed in the ground. Energy also comes from the Earth’s core which is several thousands of degrees Celsius. This implies, of course, that digging to China is virtually impossible.

Hot springs are a great example of geothermal. That doesn’t mean that you need to be near one, or a fault line for that matter, to enjoy the benefits of le fruit de terra. More and more are accessing low temperature resources or what’s referred to as ‘Earth Energy’ or ‘Geoexchange’ to heat their homes.

Two types of geoexchange heat pumps that heat a house’s air and/or water

Open Loop – extracts heat directly from water pumped between two wells or from a lake or stream.

Closed Loop – extracts heat using pipes buried in the ground. Circulating liquid in the pipes returns heat to a compressor unit located inside the home.

The Government of Canada provides a quick snapshot on how closed loop works. Note that you can lay pipes horizontally (if you have the space) or vertically (up to 100 metres).

What’s the Big Deal?
According to William Kemp who wrote $mart Power:
There are approximately 500,000 geoexchange installations in the United States and 35,000 in Canada. This results in an annual energy savings of approximately 4 billion kWh of electricity, which eliminates 20 trillion fossil-fuel BTUs and slashing greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 3 million tons (2.7 million tones).

Other Advantages (based on Natural Resources Canada):

  • On average, an earth energy system can save two-thirds of the cost to heat and cool with electricity – and two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions. However, the latter depends on the source of electricity you use to run the system’s components. If you are reliant on Ontario’s dirty coal plants for your electricity….hmmm.
  • Earth energy can provide heating in winter, cooling in summer, and year-round hot water for home use. A single system performs all necessary functions and requires only a flick of a switch to reverse the unit for a seasonal change.
  • Earth energy systems provide constant low-level heat, which eliminates the need to change thermostats at night. Another benefit is the absence of draughts that are common with conventional forced-air heating systems.
  • Earth energy systems do not smell of natural gas, oil or propane furnaces. This is great for highly-insulated buildings or for people who are allergic or sensitive to yucky gases and poor air quality.
  • Because there is no combustion, earth energy systems cannot explode and there is no need to store fuel. Insurance companies often provide a discount on policies that use earth energy.
  • If you install an earth energy system in a commercial or industrial building, you eliminate the need for a flat roof and cooling towers. That allows architects to increase the aesthetic appeal of the building's design. Bring on beautiful buildings! Haven’t we suffered enough?
  • Long lasting – can perform up to 50 years or more.
  • Increase the value of your property.
  • Easy to maintain.

There are a few drawbacks:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's good to see some useful information about geo. Every bit helps for an industry that should be figuring large in the "where is our energy going to come from" future, but awareness and deployment is still a great factor to contend with.