Welcome to Geo4VA!
This is a Special Energy Project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's State Energy Program through the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy. It is directed toward school divisions throughout the state, and provides educational materials on geothermal heat pump (GHP) technology, a downloadable screening tool to study the economic feasibility of school GHP alternatives, and guidance on how to move forward with the most promising opportunities. Our goal is to facilitate the design and installation of GHP systems to condition an additional one million square feet of school space in Virginia.
Schools with GHP systems typically save 20 to 30 cents per square foot annually on their utility bills, compared with schools that have conventional heating and cooling equipment. If we can achieve the above project goal, it would yield a total savings of $250,000 per year to Virginia's schools, providing a more comfortable learning environment for our children while showcasing a sustainable energy technology in our most important community buildings. Below is a summary of how this Web site will help achieve that goal.
Geothermal heat pumps are also known as "ground-source" or "earth-coupled" heat pumps because they exchange heat with the soil at depths of tens to hundreds of feet below the earth's surface. At these depths, the soil temperature is relatively constant compared with the seasonal extremes of air temperature. In winter the soil is warmer than the air, and the earth can act as a heat source for schools and other buildings. In summer the soil is cooler than the air, and the earth can act as a heat sink to provide space cooling. Click on the GHP Technology link to learn the basic science and engineering of geothermal heat pumps.
Over 600 schools nationwide have installed GHP systems for space heating and cooling. GHPs are significantly more energy-efficient than conventional heating and cooling systems, which leads to significantly lower utility bills. They also have lower maintenance costs than conventional systems. Although a GHP system can be more expensive to install, its annual savings in energy and maintenance typically "pay back" its higher capital costs within 4 to 8 years, accumulating large net savings over the remainder of the system's 20- to 30-year life.
Once you understand the basics of GHP technology, visit the GHPs in Schools section of this Web site to learn how geothermal heat pumps are already benefiting school districts in our part of the country. It explains specific advantages of GHP technology for schools and provides a clickable state map that enables you to learn about existing GHP systems at schools in Virginia.
For more information about commercial GHP equipment suitable for school buildings, and to locate system designers and installers in your part of Virginia, visit the Industry Resources section of our Web site. That section also provides a list of other Web sites where you can find additional information on GHP technology.
Finally, we encourage our visitors to Get Involved in exploring and developing GHP project opportunities in their school divisions. That section of our Web site provides a roadmap to the local school capital planning process in Virginia and shows how to form an on-line collaborative team to evaluate and develop GHP opportunities through our discussion forum. We also explain creative alternatives for financing the high capital cost of GHP systems and how to overcome other hurdles. By getting involved in our Geo4VA on-line community, you can make a meaningful contribution toward Virginia's most important resources: our children and our natural environment.