Geothermal Growth Offers New Options For Underground Contractors

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | November 2009 Vol. 64 No. 11
Astec has developed a special vertical drill designed specifically for the geothermal market.

Key barriers to growth cited in the study are high first cost of GHP systems, lack of consumer knowledge and/or confidence in GHP system benefits, lack of policy maker and regulator knowledge of and/or confidence in of benefits of GHP systems, limitations of GHP design and business planning infrastructure, limitations of the number of trained GHP system installer personnel, and lack of new technologies and techniques to improve GHP system cost and performance.

However, the report's conclusions about the future of the industry are positive and include the following:

"Every building in America sits on the ground, and the ground is generally cooler than outdoor air in summer and warmer in winter. GHPs use the only renewable energy resource that is available at every building's point of use, on demand, cannot be depleted (assuming proper design), and is potentially affordable in all 50 states. GHPs may be among the most affordable renewable energy resource, especially considering the investments in electrical transmission that will be necessary to deliver many of the best wind, solar, and geothermal power generation resources to market.

"Today's domestic GHP industry is better positioned for rapid growth than ever before. Not only has the industry grown with the help of past federal and utility programs, but it has proven that it can stabilize and grow on its own again when such programs disappear. Compared to the early days, the diverse segments of the industry are better able to work with each other as a cohesive whole. The United States has the world's largest installed base of GHP systems, which can be mined for statistically valid hard data on costs and benefits, as well as best practices."

The Oak Ridge National Laboratory is managed by UT Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy. The geothermal report was sponsored by the EERE Geothermal Technologies Program, U.S. Department of Energy.

International Ground Source Heat Pump Association, (405) 744-5175,

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