Distributed Geothermal Network
Geothermal energy comes in two main forms: large geothermal plants that are built deep into the Earth and generate energy around-the-clock, and shallow geothermal units built to provide the heating cooling needs of one building. Geothermal plants are not addressed in this study, mainly because of the lack of research, although a system of geothermal plants could theoretically be the ideal way to provide continuous electricity for any society. MIT has proposed a crash program to develop the technology.
On the other hand, hundreds of thousands of geothermal heat pumps have been installed in the United States. According to Oklahoma State University, "Ground source heat pumps (GSHPs) are electrically powered systems that tap the stored energy of the greatest solar collector in existence: the earth. These systems use the earth's relatively constant temperature to provide heating, cooling, and hot water for homes and commercial buildings." Jon Rynn has calculated that if every residential and commercial building in the country used geothermal heat pumps, we could shut down all of the coal plants -- assuming that the natural gas saved by using geothermal heat pumps was redirected to electricity generation. If the full Renewable Energy Program presented here is implemented, virtually all natural gas use could also be eliminated.
Geothermal heat pumps become more economical the larger the building with which they are associated, so that the 250-unit apartment buildings proposed above, for instance, would reduce the costs of installation. For a single family home of 2500 square feet, a cost of $20,000 is reasonable. Let’s say that on average, assuming a dense living arrangement, we could install a geothermal heat pump for $10,000 per household. With approximately 100 million households in the U.S., we would need to spend $1 trillion over 20 years, or $50 billion per year.
If we assume about $50,000 per job, then we would have about 1 million jobs per year in order to install ground source heat pumps for all residential units in the United States.