It’s a marriage made in heaven: Solar PV and Geothermal Heat Pumps
Part 6 of a 6-Part Series
Summing It Up
There is a dawning awareness: our activities affect the whole planet. Are we ready to restore the balance in the energy give-and-take?
Energy efficiency is essential, but will take us only a short way down the road to cutting the greenhouse gases contributing to climate change. Adopting renewable energy on a grand scale can reduce greenhouse gases 80% by 2050, the goal most climate scientists recommend.
Much of the focus of renewable energy so far has really been on renewable electricity, with solar PV leading the way. This is great, but clean electricity is only one half of the renewable energy equation.
The blind spot in the race to 100% renewable energy is heating indoor spaces. This is a major concern in most of the US since onsite heating of buildings is responsible for a quarter to a third of the greenhouse gases emitted. Most of the US is in a heating climate.
To heat without fire requires methods of harnessing renewable thermal resources that are boosted by electricity. The only viable technology available today is the heat pump, with the geothermal heat pump being the most efficient and least expensive to use.
PV and GHP are both renewable energy technologies that dovetail as if made for each other. PV generates electricity from sunshine. GHPs use this electricity to heat and cool using the solar thermal energy stored in the ground.
PV by itself would eventually reduce electric utility sales, posing a threat to these utilities. When coupled with GHP the overall result is increased electricity usage, improved system efficiency, reduced peak demand load and increased off-peak load. Electric utilities should see their market share remain stable.
The loser? The fossil fuel companies who will no longer sell natural gas, propane and heating oil to heat buildings.
- Environment: no on-site exhaust emissions mean:
- Lower greenhouse gas levels
- Improved air quality
- Diminished acidification of rivers, lakes and oceans
- People with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) who will breathe easier
- Consumers who gain increased energy independence. They can actually achieve net zero energy (NZE) or at the very least pay significantly less to maintain their homes and buildings in terms of heating, cooling and running appliances.
- Local economies which benefit from greater discretionary income of residents and from the increase in green jobs that cannot be outsourced
- PV installers who can sell more panels and GHP installers who can increase their market share
- Electric utilities who will endure when fossil fuel use for space heating is curtailed
- Electric grids that are more robust and resilient due to distributed energy generation
- US overall economy due to increased energy independence
Both PV and GHP are necessary technologies to achieve the stringent greenhouse gas emission reductions advised by climate scientists to mitigate climate change.
It is time for the solar PV and GHP industries to join together to support each other. Together we can extend the reach and influence of our industries. Together we can expand the acceptance and adoption of our technologies as complementary, interconnected and interdependent renewables that lead to NZE. Together we can work together to create a sustainable future for generations to come.
It’s more than just a matter of improving energy efficiency. It’s about finding sustainable technologies that will see us through to the 22nd century.
If we don’t get going now, when?