Tinkler said a business such as a convenience store — with its long hours and heavy duty refrigerators — can make the switch to geothermal pay off in about six months. Residential systems usually break even in five to 15 years, depending on electricity use and costs.
Lubbock Christian University in Texas is installing geothermal systems that have allowed it to cut its utility costs while it has continued to add square footage to its campus, Tinkler said.
The school, which is about 60 percent geothermal, has reduced its electricity costs by 26 percent, while its natural gas costs are down 62 percent.
Tinkler said geothermal systems help regulate electricity usage throughout the year, making them a good fit with other renewables, notably solar. He said the technology also can be used to make electricity from heat and turn salt water into fresh water.
Johnson said geothermal is an ideal choice for businesses that use a lot of electricity, rely on obsolete heating and cooling systems or use propane or electricity for heat.
He said the amount of use a building gets is important in gauging the impact of a switch to geothermal.
Caddo Electric Cooperative, which is based in Binger, has turned to geothermal to reduce electricity demand in the summer.
The cooperative pays for ground-source heat pumps for interested customers, who are charged a monthly thermal energy cost, said Boyd Lee, director of marketing and member services.
Caddo also has struck a deal with Ideal Homes to build 270 geothermal homes in its territory over the next three years.
Lee said it is too soon to tell how Caddo's system will benefit from the geothermal program, but it is expected to shave 10 percent off the cooperative's electrical load over the next five to 10 years. That also will save customers from rate increases, he said.
Just like a battery stores electrical charge, geothermal stores heat charge.”