DOE contractor studies geothermal; aim is for 1 million GHPs/year

WASHINGTON — U.S. Department of Energy contractor Bob Lawrence & Associates Inc. is asking geothermal heat pump ground loop installers across the U.S. to complete its Ground Loop Survey. The Ground Loop Survey is a part of the GHPsRUS Project, a three-year effort to measure the costs and benefits of nationwide geothermal heat pump deployment.

DOE is supporting the GHPsRUS Project with funding from the Recovery Act of 2009. The GHPsRUS Project seeks to measure the costs and benefits of nationwide geothermal heat pump deployment. In so doing, the project encourages the installation of GHPs across the U.S., supporting DOE's goal of having one million geothermal heat pumps installed each year by 2016

DOE contractor Bob Lawrence & Associates Inc., Alexandria, Va., is conducting the research effort, which is also seeking input from geothermal heat pump manufacturers, systems designers, installers and suppliers. The California Geothermal Energy Collaborative is also assisting in the three-year study

The final report in early 2013 will help DOE establish a baseline for the GHP industry, and could affect the development of a GHP program at the agency.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory Geoexchange Heat Pump Roadmap established the goal of one million GHPs installed each year by 2016.

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Geothermal heat pumps use 25%-50% less electricity than conventional heating or cooling systems, and about 70% of the energy used in a GHP system is renewable energy from the ground. While the technology has existed since the late 1940s, GHPs, also known as ground-source heat pumps and geo-exchange systems, currently account for less than 2% of the total North American heating and cooling market.

What BL&A is trying to ascertain is what if geothermal heat pumps were installed wherever they made economic and geographic sense? How would a nationwide deployment of these green heating and cooling systems benefit the country economically, environmentally, and socially?

Among the questions for which BL&A is seeking answers, if GHPs were installed as widely as possible:

• How many new green jobs would GHP manufacturers and their suppliers need to create to meet the increasing demand?

• How many more pumps, heat exchangers, fans, compressors, valves, coils, piping, controls, cases and other GHP components would be needed?

• How many more feet of HDPE and PEXa pipe would factories produce?

• How many more tons of geothermal grout would be needed?

• How many greenhouse gases would not be emitted and power plants not built?

• How much energy would the country save?

Using installation costs in conjunction with heating and cooling loads, geological data, and existing heating and cooling sources, the GHPsRUS Project will estimate in which areas of the country GHPs could most effectively and efficiently provide heating and cooling.

Bob Lawrence & Associates will deliver its findings to the U.S. Department of Energy and the American public in early 2013. All reports will be freely available on the GHPsRUS website.

The consulting firm is asking ground loop installers to provide information on their company's GHP ground loop business. All information provided will be kept completely confidential. The survey should take 15-20 minutes to complete, according to the firm, depending on how many jobs the contractor enters data for.

The survey begins by asking for demographic information, how many people work for the company and how many ground loop systems it installs. It asks if the firm’s ground loop business has increased, decreased or stayed the same over the last five years and what it expects for the coming five years.

The survey asks for drilling method, loop type (e.g., vertical, pond, DX) borehole depths and geology encountered, such as rock, sand or clay.

It asks for prices and then what the contractor is including in its pricing, such as grouting, looping, headering, purging.

The survey is asking for this type of detailed information from either average or actual jobs.

The survey asks for the names of wholesalers for various components, such as pipes, valves and headers, drill bits or grout. It finishes up by asking what is the contractor’s greatest barrier to increasing its geothermal business.

The survey forms for both geothermal installers and manufacturers may be found at Survey company Bob Lawrence & Associates may be reached at 703/836-3654, fax 703/836-6086.