Thursday, June 2, 2011

Geothermal for Michigan

This may not be news to you, though it was to me: last June, the City Council of Wyandotte (downriver from Detroit, due east of Metro Airport) approved a city utility to provide residents with geothermal energy. Geothermal systems use the constant temperatures underground to heat and cool buildings. In addition to not emitting greenhouse gasses, such systems cut way down on the need for electricity in the summer, and eliminate the need for gas in the winter. Lawrence Technological University installed a geothermal system for its Taubman Student Services Building when it was first built in 2006. In 2009, they revised their system, having discovered that the wells were spaced too close together for efficient cooling during the summer.

The main drawback is the high up-front cost: the system requires a pair of wells about 400 feet deep, which is where the City comes in to help residents out. Here's what the Great Lakes Energy News for June, 2011, has to say about it:

Wyandotte homeowners are lined up to become customers of a geothermal public utility, thought to be one of the first of its kind in the country. Customers can save about $500 to $1,000 a year because they will need less electricity in the summer and no natural gas for heat. Wyandotte expects most customers will have the city install the well and own and maintain the equipment outside the home, while the ground source heat pump will be owned by the homeowner. So far, Wyandotte has installed geothermal systems on homes owned by the city and has built or renovated 44 homes with a $7.7 million grant through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. Officials in Dearborn Heights are also working on plans to make geothermal energy available to their residents.

Good going, Wyandotte! Go for it, Dearborn Heights! What can we do in our own communities?

PS - I hear brevity is a key to blog success. I'm giving it a try!

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