As the ground work for any mixed-use community progresses, the city water and sewer, storm water, and electric and communications go in. Many communities pipe reclaimed water for irrigation and other household uses. Geothermal condenser water piping is equally important.
Every bit as important as having utility supplied electricity is the HVAC infrastructure. After all, about half the energy consumed in buildings goes to the HVAC system. This condenser water piping for the water sourced heat pumps is a must for resilient communities, and it’s taking hold.
This infrastructure provides several important functions for the community and the utility that is distributing the condenser water. It:
All electric communities fit a standard for net-zero energy, and more importantly, net-zero emissions communities. The electric grid is becoming greener every day. Combustion heating is quickly being phased out. A renewable-energy pipeline solution for communities serves all parties well.
Additionally, much like National Grid and Enbridge are discovering, geothermal systems use the same pipe material as the Natural Gas (NG) systems, infrastructure with which they are generally familiar. Distribution sizes are roughly the same, and there are no consumables. Instead of piping in a gas supply, the utility installs a permanent renewable energy source; a geothermal exchange source.
Though there are numerous communities that have adopted 100 percent ground-sourced HVAC systems, a few of them have also invested into a utility structure. Community-wide geothermal HVAC systems are becoming more common. What types of systems are going in, and what works best? That depends on regional conditions and needs.
The Pinewood Forrest Development outside Atlanta is a beautiful mixed-use development boasting some rather trendy features, and situated across the street from the Pinewood Atlanta Studios, noted for movies such as “Ant-Man” “Guardians of the Galaxy”, and “Civil War (Captain America)”. They’ve even created this wonderful geothermal video (bit.do/GeothermalExplained). The UK-based sister company produced the Harry Potter movies. Chick-fil-A’s CEO, Dan Cathy partnered with Pinewood UK to create the second largest studio in the U.S. While Pinewood Forrest has started out by making geothermal the standard for the development, it’s currently installing geothermal loops, one per home. But there is a lot left to do, and the developers are considering possibilities of community geothermal infrastructure. This one is definitely going to be a lot of fun.
In Texas, the Whisper Valley community occupies 2,000 acres of beautiful mixed-use features that will eventually be home to thousands of families, and has adopted community geothermal loop structure. Don Penn (design engineer for hundreds of geothermal systems in public schools, etc.) has created a unique and unprecedented infrastructure design that employs thermal advantage to share energy between buildings, and uses cost-saving peak-load features.
What about all of the existing communities that don’t have geothermal infrastructure? Will they be left out, or will they need to install “one-off” systems? The jury is still out on that, but there are some very good things happening.
National Grid is both an electric and a Natural Gas (NG) supplier. It has noted that some communities where NG is not currently piped would be better served with a geothermal solution. National Grid installs the loops, and charges a utility fee for connection. It is using the same type of pipe (HDPE) as for NG distribution, but, as mentioned earlier, with geothermal, there are no consumables. The pipe is supplying renewable solar energy instead of NG, and eliminating the GHG emissions associated with combustion heating. This is a sure win for those areas not served by NG, and it will eventually be a solution for NG communities as carbon taxes begin to affect their household budgets, something sure to come as New York gets tougher on GHG emissions goals. That makes geothermal the inevitable solution to combustion heating for New Yorkers.
NYSERDA is administering a $15 million program to “spur” geothermal heat pump (GHP) usage. I emphasized “spur”, because that’s what it is. If you look further into the plan, NYSERDA is investing in research and development projects, workforce development, and a top-down approach to government and large commercial geothermal applications.
NYSERDA is sponsoring professional development and community outreach projects for many sectors. There are plans to fill libraries, churches, and community centers with consumers ready to sign up for something that will help reduce their energy bills, and reduce GHG emissions.
NYSERDA has plans to encourage the retrofits for entire communities. It intends to convert several communities each year for the next five years, and is supervising the efforts of competent and proven engineers and contractors that will install these systems.
Google’s new Bay View Campus, under construction outside San Francisco is being built on geothermal structural piles. It’s no mystery that earlier this year, the Alphabet X (formerly Google) geothermal spinout, “Dandelion Energy” hit the streets of New York. This is remarkable validation for a geothermal heating and cooling as a growth industry.
Like Whisper Valley in Austin and Pinewood Forrest in Atlanta, New York wants to see geothermal heating and cooling systems take hold in a large way. NYSERDA’s plans to see this go into several existing communities each year is an exciting prospect.
The time is now to become educated on geothermal heating and cooling systems. Engineers don’t need to be a Certified Geothermal Designer (CGD) to specify a geothermal exchange system for a building, or even for an entire mixed-use community. Issuing a Request for Proposals (RFP) to a few CGDs is a great start.
Go online to the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association (IGSHPA) and find out more.