Grant Money Available for Geothermal Energy Systems
Communities and non-profit organizations served by an Illinois electric cooperative can now receive up to $50,000 (or 33% of project cost) to help with the installation of geothermal heating and cooling systems through a grant program administered by the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives (AIEC) and funded by the Illnois Clean Energy Community Foundation.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency calls geothermal heating & cooling systems "The most energy efficient, environmentally clean and cost-effective space conditioning systems available. Geothermal systems on average can cut energy expenses by 50 percent, and have been proven to decrease maintenance costs as well.
What's so compelling about geothermal technology?
In a technology defined by numbers, here's a fact that everyone will understand: With a geothermal system, (also known as geo-exchange systems) a reasonably tight 2,000 sq. ft. home can be heated and cooled for about $1.00 a day. You'll pay several thousand more up front, but in many cases, the payback can come in as little as 4 to 6 years. And once the system is paid off, the annual return on investment can approach 15-20%. Add impressive durability and less-intrusive trenching methods and the scales begin to tip, at least in the new home market.
How does A geothermal energy system work?
Geothermal heating & cooling systems tap into the constant, moderate temperatures found just a few feet below the earth's surface. A series of pipes (an earth loop) buried in the ground capture free energy from the earth. For heating, fluid circulates through the underground loop and heat energy is transferred from the ground (the heat source) to the fluid and then to the geothermal unit located inside the home. This warm and comfortable air can be distributed through either a conventional duct system or a hydronic radiant heat system.
To provide air conditioning, the process reverses. Heat is removed from the home and transferred to the earth loop fluid. As the warm fluid travels through the loop in the earth, it is cooled. In cooling, the earth serves as a "heat sink," a place to deposit the heat removed from the home. The result is cool, dry air.
Earth loops come in two basic types: closed and open. Closed loops, made of durable, high-density polyethylene pipe, are buried in the earth or submerged in a lake or pond. Open loops use ground water pumped from a well as a heat source. The decision on which loop configuration to use depends on the terrain, the cost of trenching or drilling, the availability of quality ground water and the availability of land. For more details about specific geothermal systems or loop options, contact an authorized geothermal systems dealer and installer.
How does geothermal benefit the environment?
Geothermal systems work with nature, not against it. They minimize the threats of acid rain, air pollution and the greenhouse effect. An environmentally friendly fluid is used in the closed loop.
Do geothermal systems require much maintenance?
No! Geothermal systems are practically maintenance free. When installed properly, the buried loop will last for generations. And the other half of the system---the unit's fan, compressor and heat pump---is housed indoors, protected from harsh weather. Periodic checks and filter changes are the only required maintenance.
How can I learn more about the grant program?
For more information about the geothermal system funding program for non-profit organizations, contact Wayne-White Counties Electric Cooperative Member Services, Jerry Houser, at (618) 842-2196 or the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives at (217) 529-5561.