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EGLE promotes geothermal for businesses to help meet state climate plan goal

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U.S. Department of Energy
Geothermal could be used in larger applications rather than building by building which is generally the case today.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) is working to make businesses more aware of renewable and clean energy alternatives in what it calls clean energy asset roadmaps. It’s part of the goal to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 that Governor Whitmer calls for in the state’s MI Healthy Climate Plan.

Renewable power such as solar and wind gets most of the attention. But, without efficient use, it's literally a waste of energy. That’s where geothermal comes into play.

An illustration of the basics of a residential geothermal system.

“Geothermal is going to be one of the key linchpins to achieving the carbon reduction goals that that plan envisions,” said Loch McCabe, an expert in residence at Lawrence Technological University’s Centrepolis Accelerator.

While people can see solar panels or wind turbines, geothermal infrastructure is out-of-sight, out-of-mind, he said.

“Geothermal is underground. You know, people don’t see it. Your neighbor could have geothermal. You wouldn’t know it,” said McCabe.

Fluid running through pipes captures the temperature of of the soil deep underground, then using a heat pump it’s converted to warm during the winter or cool during the summer. It’s much more efficient than a natural gas furnace or an electric air conditioner.

McCabe said there are 40,000 geothermal well fields in Michigan. Some of them are heating and cooling prominent buildings such as the Michigan State Capitol.

“The industry has come a long way, but it’s still not as well developed as a number of other industries,” he said.

EGLE is working with partners such as McCabe to help advance the use of geothermal in commercial and industrial applications.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Radio from 1998-2010.
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