Geothermal research in Florida receives federal funding

11/02/09 Seán Kinane
WMNF Drive-Time News Monday | Listen to this entire show:

Last week the U.S. Department of Energy announced that up to $338 million in Recovery Act funds would be used for exploration and development of geothermal energy. Late Friday, WMNF spoke with Matt Rogers, the senior advisor to the Secretary of Energy for the Recovery Act.

Matt Rogers: “So geothermal is the heat that is under the ground all the time in the earth. People often think about geothermal energy as coming from geysers. And that’s sort of the traditional way of thinking about geothermal energy, where the earth’s crust is thin and you get the really hot rock down below the surface and water touches it and comes out in geysers. So Yellowstone National Park is full of geothermal energy.

“What’s interesting though is there’s geothermal energy across the whole country. And what we were funding as part of this effort—$338 million under the Recovery Act, that was matched by an equal amount of private funding—are a set of efforts to tap the multiple geothermal resources in the United State and to do research on ways to make that even more economical. So, in this case, Florida International University was selected to do a set of research around how to make ground source heat pumps more economical in more humid climates, because there’s a lot of good geothermal potential. And you have to make sure that it works in the local climate where it’s operating.”

WMNF: “So how would that work in Florida? Is it able to heat your home in the winter and cool it during the summer?”

Rogers: “That’s right. Many people in Florida use traditional heat pumps. What this takes advantage of is the temperature difference between the surface and, say, 100 or 200 feet below the surface. And what’s interesting is that all year round there’s a steady temperature differential that you can use to heat the homes in the winter and to cool them down in the summer by taking advantage of that consistent differential in temperature.”

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