Watching Our Water Ways

Environmental reporter Christopher Dunagan discusses the challenges of protecting Puget Sound and all things water-related.
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‘Geothermal’ heating does not require a geyser

March 25th, 2010 by cdunagan

You don’t need to have a geyser in your backyard to benefit from “geothermal” energy.

While superhot water from deep underground makes for a pretty exciting story, it’s not the only way to go. Klamath Falls, Ore., is involved in a $1.6 million project to generate electricity from what is considered “low temperature” geothermal water. Check out the story in yesterday’s edition of the online magazine Government Technology.

Michael Mayda of Thermal Systems in Silverdale describes a geothermal heat pump in a new Bainbridge Island home.
Kitsap Sun photo

“The city, with its high-desert landscape, sits above natural geothermal springs, which residents have used for 100 years to heat their homes,” states the article by Russell Nichols. “Hot rocks and geysers keep the sidewalks warm when the winter comes and pump heat into buildings downtown.”

The article goes on to describe a low-temperature geothermal power plant proposed for Klamath Falls that was pioneered at Chena Hot Springs in Alaska. For a description of the Chena project, involving United Technologies Corporation, see the For Your Own Power Web site.

While geothermal electricity is exciting technology, what caught my attention was a federal residential tax credit that will pay 30 percent of the cost of solar, wind, fuel cell … and, yes, geothermal systems. I pursued geothermal heat pumps in a story I wrote for Sunday’s Kitsap Sun.

The unlimited tax credit makes it feasible to consider geothermal heat pumps in many new home installations. Furthermore, an additional $1,500 rebate from Puget Sound Energy opens the door to consider them when replacing old heating systems, especially for large homes.

In addition to my Sunday story, these resources may help you understand the operations and benefits of geothermal heat pumps:

Geothermal Heat Pumps (U.S. Department of Energy)

Heating and Cooling with a Heat Pump (Natural Resources Canada)

Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit (U.S. Department of Energy)

Qualified geothermal heat pump rebate (Puget Sound Energy)

Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency

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"In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught."Baba Dioum, Senegalese conservationist

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