Geothermal

Geothermal energy comes from the earth itself. The most attractive form of geothermal in the Shenandoah Valley is a geothermal heat pump. Such a system operates just like a regular heat pump, except that the heat exchange takes place in the ground where temperatures stay more constant. This is particularly advantageous during the hottest and coldest times of year when traditional heat pumps have to work the hardest (and in summer, electricity costs are the highest). Geothermal systems are becoming increasingly common in larger installations (office buildings, schools, etc.) though high up-front costs have them lagging a bit for residential applications. A major cost in geothermal installations is drilling a hole for the heat exchanger. The system can be set up either horizontally (typically lower cost) or vertically (typically the most efficient). The advantages of geothermal heat pumps are much lower operating costs, high durability, and reliance on a well-known technology.

The other major form of geothermal energy is geothermal electricity. In one of these systems, which are done on a fairly large scale, a very deep hole is drilled, giving access to the hot liquid contained in the ground. Obviously, this is more viable in areas with some geologic activity and active “hot spots” near the earth’s surface. The hot liquid is then used to drive a turbine and generate electricity, much like a coal or other steam-based power plant. Most geothermal plants in the U.S. are located in the west, which has significantly better potential for this particular type of renewable energy.

Geothermal energy comes from the earth itself. The most attractive form of geothermal in the Shenandoah Valley is a geothermal heat pump. Such a system operates just like a regular heat pump, except that the heat exchange takes place in the ground where temperatures stay more constant. This is particularly advantageous during the hottest and coldest times of year when traditional heat pumps have to work the hardest (and in summer, electricity costs are the highest). Geothermal systems are becoming increasingly common in larger installations (office buildings, schools, etc.) though high up-front costs have them lagging a bit for residential applications. A major cost in geothermal installations is drilling a hole for the heat exchanger. The system can be set up either horizontally (typically lower cost) or vertically (typically the most efficient). The advantages of geothermal heat pumps are much lower operating costs, high durability, and reliance on a well-known technology.

The other major form of geothermal energy is geothermal electricity. In one of these systems, which are done on a fairly large scale, a very deep hole is drilled, giving access to the hot liquid contained in the ground. Obviously, this is more viable in areas with some geologic activity and active “hot spots” near the earth’s surface. The hot liquid is then used to drive a turbine and generate electricity, much like a coal or other steam-based power plant. Most geothermal plants in the U.S. are located in the west, which has significantly better potential for this particular type of renewable energy.