CBC has recently reported on a proposed community-scale ground source heat pump installation, including sceptical comments from me.
My scepticism arises from seeing many district heating proposals like this come and go. Hears are two examples from heating markets with very costly conventional alternatives, one in Yellowknife and another in Whitehorse
I am also concerned seeing many individual-site geothermal installations fail in Ontario. Typical problems include the ineffectiveness of the systems to supply sufficient heat on the coldest days, fast depreciation, and rising power costs.
The CBC story accurately quotes me hoping that the developers can prove me wrong. One comment I made to CBC that didn’t make the story (understandably given their story length) was to remark on benefits of the proposal, including much better sound performance in aircon season.
If the Markham project is going to work, the developers will need very smart engineering and finance.
The title of this post draws on Ontario’s former environment minister Glenn Murray, who back in 2011 promising a “geothermal revolution”. (See minute: 10:30 from this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b59ugwetaOg&feature=youtu.be. I suggest that history has proven all of Glenn Murray’s major energy ideas expressed as a government minister to be pretty thoroughly debunked at this stage.
Here is me debating another reliable guide to unreliable energy ideas, Tom Rand, on the topic of geothermal back in 2011. Unfortunately, the links are now stale and I can’t find working links.
Here is blogger and design editor at treehugger.com, Lloyd Alter, arguing both that I understand nothing about the topic in question and also that “many in the green building world have given up on GSHPs”.
In response to the CBC coverage, I have received a couple of private complaints from GSHP developers. I want to express a particular invitation to my detractors to comment here. On this site, I invite any and all (civil) comments and criticisms. It would be particularly useful to my readers (and me too) to see documentation on successful GSHP installations.
Postscript November 21
In an exchange on Twitter, Tom Rand made the following remark:
One problem we tried to solve in the geo company I invested in was to professionalize design & installation (including drilling) to overcome what was essentially a mom-and-pop industry. We didn’t succeed (as they have in Sweden.). @mattamyhomes will have better success, I think.
Geothermal and GSHP technologies have failed to deliver much of a dent in the Canadian heating market despite massive flows of subsidies over a period of decades. Examples include the Ontario Green Fund, the federal ecoENERGY Retrofit, federal and provincial Home Renovation Tax Credits, and many other government sources.
Here is an article from “Corporate Knights” magazine from November 2008 wherein Rand promotes his geo heating company, CED. Among his claims from 2008: “Market conditions are just right for geo to reach what Malcolm Gladwell calls the ‘tipping point’. The economics work.” Ten years later, there is no market evidence for this claim.