Technoeconomic Design of a Geothermal-Enabled Cold Climate Zero Energy Community

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Development of a zero energy community is more costly in northern cold climates than in moderate regions. Building energy loads are higher, thanks to the colder weather, and site solar photovoltaics (PV) are less productive due to lower solar incidence and misalignment with the buildings' energy needs (summer production, winter demands). Geothermal energy production can support a zero energy community through application of energy efficiency (demand design), geothermal production (supply design), and asset dispatch as an integrated techno-economic package. This article presents the process used to explore geothermal system integration, our findings, and technical challenges for community-scale adoption of geothermal as an electric and thermal resource. We show that under a wide range of conditions, community-scale geothermal electric power and direct-use thermal energy is economically competitive with "business-As-usual" design and construction practices for zero energy communities. Furthermore, geothermal-produced energy will be self-consumed to a much greater extent than PV, resulting in significant reductions in site energy import and export. We conclude that under appropriate conditions, community-scale geothermal can be the most economically favorable energy resource for northern-climate zero energy community developments. Ongoing geothermal research and development to improve performance and reduce costs will further enhance the value proposition for community-scale geothermal technologies. We expect that including geothermal power and thermal energy in zero energy community design can improve its cost-effectiveness and therefore enhance the benefits of zero energy in more northern climates.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numberArticle No. 100902
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Energy Resources Technology, Transactions of the ASME
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). All rights reserved.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5R00-77752


  • community
  • geothermal
  • renewable
  • zero energy


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