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Geothermal offers savings on electricity

Geothermal technology can help businesses and homeowners drastically reduce their electricity costs, officials said at a recent conference in Oklahoma City.
by Jay F. Marks Published: August 31, 2012

New advancements in geothermal technology make it a viable option for almost any building, the chief executive of a Colorado-based geothermal company said this week.

Thermal Energy Corp. CEO Buzz Johnson said geothermal typically is considered for high occupancy buildings or those that are in use 24 hours a day, but his company also looks for “nontraditional” application for the technology.

Johnson said ground-source heat pumps used to harness geothermal energy have helped a commercial dairy in New Mexico slash its electricity usage from 239 kilowatts to 76 kilowatts.

Johnson and engineer Greg Tinkler have been working with Western Farmers Electric Cooperative to identify ways the electricity provider can cut demand without adding new generating capacity. Western Farmers provides power to 23 rural electric cooperatives in Oklahoma and New Mexico.

The duo spoke Tuesday at Touchstone Energy Electric Cooperatives' 12th annual Emerging Technology Conference at Oklahoma City's Skirvin Hilton.

Mark Faulkenberry, manager of marketing and communications for Western Farmers, said geothermal can help reduce electricity demand and increase efficiency.

Johnson said the technology has been around for some time.

“It's not really black magic,” he said. “It's really quite well known.”

Tinkler, an engineer with LRB Engineers Inc. in Houston, said there are many types of geothermal systems available, but they all work like a battery.

“Just like a battery stores electrical charge, geothermal stores heat charge,” he said.

Tinkler said a geothermal loop field takes advantage of the stable temperature of the earth below a layer of insulating soil, making it easier to heat or cool a building.

“It costs us a whole lot more to go from 100 (degrees) to 72 than it does to go from (ground temperature of) 65 to 72,” he said. “That's where it affects you guys.”

Geothermal systems use a series of underground pipes to store heat or move it to the surface.

“It's a fairly simple system,” he said.

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by Jay F. Marks
Energy Reporter
Jay F. Marks has been covering Oklahoma news since graduating from Oklahoma State University in 1996. He worked in Sulphur and Enid before joining The Oklahoman in 2005. Marks has been covering the energy industry since 2009.
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Just like a battery stores electrical charge, geothermal stores heat charge.”

Greg Tinkler

Engineer with LRB Engineers Inc.

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