Green New Deal Plan - Green Buildings and Housing for all

Geothermal heat pumps and retrofitting

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."

While retrofitting, that is, insulating, plugging leaks, replacing windows, etc., to make a building leak less heat or cool air, has been a major goal in the past, it is becoming more likely that, in general, using solar panels and geothermal heat pumps make more sense, unless those two options are not possible


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. The Department of Energy, on the other hand, has estimated that the cost of geothermal heat pumps is $2,500 per ton, which means a 2500 square foot house would cost only $7,500. 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 120 million households in the U.S., we would need to spend $1.20 trillion over 20 years, or $60 billion per year. If the household could not use geothermal heat pumps, then presumably the money would be spent on retrofitting instead, although retrofitting is generally more expensive than geothermal.

However, we also want to provide for the heating and cooling of commercial buildings, which totaled about $87 billion square feet. We are providing geothermal heat for $60 billion per year, for 120 million households. In 1950 the square footage per household was about 1000, and there were about 3.67 people per household; in 2011, average square footage per household was about 2500, with about 2.6 people per household, for new houses. So let's say there is about 200 billion square feet for residences; thus we need half of $60 billion, or $30 billion, for the commercial spaces. Let's add $10 billion for a total of $100 billion and to be more conservative, for both residential and commercial space heating/cooling.

However, a building self-sufficiency plan would use either geothermal heat pumps or retrofitting to minimize the expense of home heating and cooling systems, so this plan includes a retrofitting budget as well; between retrofitting and geothermal heat pumps, every household could have cheap, non-fossil fuel based heating and cooling.


If we assume about 12 jobs per million, then we would have about 1,200,000 jobs per year in order to install ground source heat pumps and some retrofitting for all residential commercial units in the United States.