The idea that the Earth serves as a good source of heat is certainly not a new one. Anyone who has traveled to Yellowstone Park has witnessed the awesome display of boiling hot water that surfaces from deep below the Earth's crust. Iceland utilizes geothermal energy for much of its electricity, hot water heat, and domestic hot water.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, within 10 feet of the Earth's surface, a nearly constant temperature between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit is maintained. Geothermal or ground source heat pump systems can tap into this resource to heat and cool buildings. A typical system consists of a heat pump, an air delivery system (ductwork) and a heat exchanger - a system of pipes buried in the shallow ground near the building. In the winter, the heat pump removes heat from the heat exchanger (well field) and pumps it into the indoor air delivery system. In the summer, the process is reversed to provide cooling.
The ND Dept. of Commerce/Division of Community Services was one of the first states in the country to enter into a partnership with the Geothermal Heat Pump Consortium, Inc., a national organization committed to educating the public and promoting the use of geothermal or ground source heat pump systems.
Geothermal heat pump systems are very efficient and therefore, very economical for heating and cooling homes and businesses. While the initial costs are higher than conventional heating and cooling systems, those up-front costs are recovered in energy cost savings. A study was recently conducted by NDSU that shows that buildings that have installed geothermal in North Dakota use approximately 23% less energy compared to conventional HVAC systems. Click here for the complete report.
Enhanced Geothermal Systems, or EGS, is currently being researched around the globe as a means of providing renewable energy. EGS involves digging deep below the earth's surface, fracturing hot rock, and circulating water through the system. The steam that results from the process is used for energy.