Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc. announced a secret project called “Dandelion” which will provide geothermal heating and cooling systems for home use.
For an average fuel oil homeowner in New York, switching to geothermal would save 110 tons of CO2 and $35,000 over 20 years.
According to Business Insider, the “moonshot” division of the multinational has been working on the project for quite some time.
Kathy Hannun, Dandelion co-founder and CEO, told CNBC that the company has so far raised $2 million in seed funding in a round led by Collaborative Fund, Borealis Ventures and ZhenFund. Alphabet Inc. already holds equity in Dandelion after helping to start up the business with Hannun.
“Geothermal systems like ours let you pump heat out of your house, into the ground. This takes advantage of the fact that the ground is always around fifty to fifty-five degrees. So, you don’t have to pump heat against its natural gradient, like you do if you’re running a conventional air conditioner on a hot day, blowing hot air out of the house into a very hot atmosphere, outside,” Hannun told CNBC.
The geothermal energy market is currently worth $34 billion annually in the United States alone, and experts predict it is key to the future and development of the green energy market.
“Geothermal systems leverage a type of renewable energy that some researchers say has vast potential. The geothermal energy market…is set to grow to $57 billion by 2024,” according to a 2017 Global Market Insights report.
Official figures state that the United States is the largest consumer of geothermal power in the world, which is only about 0.4% of electricity, reaching three million households.
Geothermal energy comes from the slow decay of radioactive particles buried deep within the ground, which generates hot water or steam. The energy source is renewable because there is a constant stream of particles and heat coming from the earth’s core.
To install geothermal heating into homes, energy companies can drill wells in the garden to pump the hot water or steam through pipes and route it indoors to heat or cool the home.
To produce electricity, geothermal power plants use hot water and steam to drive generators for electricity and then direct it into households.
Google Believes Geothermal Can Heat and Cool Homes
Dandelion is a technically much simpler system, because it relies on circulating air from pipes that are six feet or so underground, where he ambient temperature remains consistently in the 50s. The company is currently testing the market with home owners in New York state in a trial run. Creators say it’s an ideal starting point because there’s a lot of variation in the weather in that state. If it proves successful, plans are afoot to expand the business across the country.
“Geothermal systems can be used for efficient heating or cooling, which makes them appealing, versus separate heating and air conditioning systems. New York is a densely populated state where an estimated 2 million homes still rely on oil or propane for temperature controls. Those are each more costly and polluting when compared to geothermal,” CNBC writes.
Dandelion systems along with their installation costs homeowners around $25,000 in one payment or between $160 to $180 a month over 20 years. Although the initial costs may seem high, the average price per kilowatt is much less than solar and wind power.
“For an average fuel oil homeowner in New York, switching to geothermal would save 110 tons of CO2 and $35,000 over 20 years,” Hannun said. “For the average propane home, the homeowner would save over 130 tons of CO2 and $63,000 over 20 years,” she added.
The slow uptake of geothermal energy across the United States can be attributed to many factors, including cost, long project times, and restricted access to optimal plant locations. The US Energy Administration states that geothermal energy’s greatest potential is in California, Utah and Idaho. Other states may suffer due to the environment.
The creation and installation costs solar power systems have declined dramatically in recent years, and geothermal systems are set to come down in price as demand increases. A supply and demand culture has taken hold in a big way, which has seen modern technologies and different power sources become widespread on the commercial market.