Renewable sources of energy are slated to comprise an increasing share of energy generation in the United States, and a larger number of distributed generation systems are being installed each year. This summer, Gretchen Heberling served as a MAP Sustainable Energy Fellow at the USGBC offices in Washington, D.C.; during her stay, she chose to take a deep dive into the world of geothermal energy, a mature form of renewable energy, yet one of which many Americans are unaware. To culminate her research, she prepared a report that investigates renewable energy production in America, focusing on building projects eligible to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.
To begin with, the state of the renewable energy industry is described, and a study of projects receiving the Renewable Energy Production credit shows that projects in the northern U.S. primarily utilize solar photovoltaic (PV) panels to produce energy on-site, despite lower solar radiation in these regions. The author demonstrates that instead of restricting their sustainability goals to offsetting electricity usage alone, project owners in the northern U.S. should consider offsetting space heating energy usage via renewable thermal energy, namely geothermal.
The main portion of the report presents the technologies and applications of geothermal energy, and their associated environmental, social, and financial costs and benefits.
To conclude, a case study covering the development of geothermal energy resources and the regulatory environment in Iceland is used to inform and support several suggestions for increased adoption of geothermal technologies in northern building projects.
Read the full report: Opportunities for Utilizing Geothermal Resources in the United States.
To learn more about the author, Gretchen Heberling: