White House Executive Order on Sustainability includes geothermal heat pumps

Date: 10 April 2015

The Washington DC News reports that the Obama Administration’s Executive Order, “Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade,” includes geothermal heat pumps (GHPs) as one technology that can help cut the Federal Government’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40% over the next decade from 2008 levels. The order mandates that the federal government increase the share of electricity it consumes from renewable sources to 30%, and that it increase energy efficiency and renewable thermal energy use by federal buildings. The order also seeks a reduction in government motor vehicle fuel and water use.

A geothermal heat pump uses the constant below ground temperature of soil or water to heat and cool a building. Geothermal heat pumps (GHPs), sometimes referred to as geoexchange, earth-coupled, ground-source, or water-source heat pumps, have been in use since the late 1940s. They use a system of wells and piping to tap the constant temperature of the earth as the exchange medium instead of the outside air temperature. This allows the system to reach fairly high efficiencies (300% to 600%) on the coldest winter nights, compared to 175% to 250% for air-source heat pumps on cool days.

Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, uses geoexchange on a very large scale. Nearly 70 years after the university installed its four coal-fired boilers, school employees have stopped shoveling and the old system has gone cold as the university embraces renewable energy with world’s largest district closed geothermal energy system. Click here for more information about their system. Ball State University is a member of the International District Energy Association (IDEA).

“We are extremely pleased that the White House cited ‘geothermal heat pumps’ when referring to renewable energy,” said Geothermal Exchange Organization (GEO) President Doug Dougherty. “GHP inclusion is the direct result of two GEO meetings with the White House Council on Environmental Quality, with the most recent also involving the Office of Management & Budget. That meeting late last year was about using GHPs as a carbon offset for proposed new power plant emission rules by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. All 50 states should follow the federal example, and recognize GHPs not only for their efficiency, but for the renewable energy they produce from the earth, reducing the thermal loads of buildings.”

Since the federal government is the single largest consumer of energy in the nation, federal emissions reductions and progress across the supply chain will have broad impacts. With a footprint that includes 360,000 buildings, 650,000 fleet vehicles, and $445 billion spent annually on goods and services, the Federal Government’s actions to reduce pollution, support renewable energy, and operate more efficiently can make a significant impact on national emissions. Specifically, the Executive Order directs Federal agencies to:

◾Ensure 25% of their total energy (electric and thermal) consumption is from clean energy sources by 2025.
◾Reduce energy use in Federal buildings by 2.5% per year between 2015 and 2025.
◾Reduce per-mile GHG emissions from Federal fleets by 30% from 2014 levels by 2025, and increase the percentage of zero emission and plug in hybrid vehicles in Federal fleets.
◾Reduce water intensity in Federal buildings by 2% per year through 2025.

“The fact that GHPs are officially recognized as a source of clean energy in the President’s Executive Order on Sustainability is a home run for the GHP industry,” said Dougherty. GHPs are easily applicable to many sections of the Executive Order as an efficiency tool and renewable thermal energy source for saving energy, reducing costs and curbing greenhouse emissions by federal buildings across the nation.”

 Source: IDEA