Is geothermal possible in Pennsylvania?
Geothermal energy is utilizing heat from the earth to provide energy – either by spinning turbines to creating electricity or using the heat to provide process heating. So, there are no known conventional geothermal resources suitable for power production in Pennsylvania. However, there are suitable conditions for the use of energy efficient ground source heat pump technology, also referred to as "Geoexchange" and geothermal heat pump. This is an energy efficiency technology, rather than a renewable process. As many people refer to ground source heat pumps as "geothermal" we've created this page for reference.
Use the earth for heating and cooling - Ground Source Heat Pumps (GSHP)
You don't need lots of land for GSHP, it is dependent on your needed tonnage of heating and cooling. GSHP uses the relatively constant temperature of the earth as a heat exchange medium to provide high efficiency heating and cooling. Commercial buildings, classroom buildings, and dormitories can often benefit from the energy savings that GHSP can provide. There are several installations of large-scale systems in Pennsylvania that have replaced district heating for campuses. The cost of a GSHP system is typically more expensive than a traditional HVAC system due to the additional heat exchange components. The return on investment in savings often occurs within 5 to 10 years, but depends upon many factors such as the cost of energy, cost of system, installation costs and size of system. These systems typically last 25 or more years.
These three websites are good resources to start your research about whether a ground source/geothermal heat pump is right for you:
The US EPA's Energy Star website
U.S. Department of Energy
The International Ground Source Heat Pump Association
Before you start! When installing one of these systems, drilling and subsequent erosion control often require permits from not only your local municipality, but also from the County Conservation District or PA DEP. We suggest you work with your driller and installer to ensure you are complying – and don't create an erosion problem when trying to save energy!