Community energy has played an important role in the growth of renewables, especially solar. But other energy sources can also be developed on a community scale.
On July 12, 2022, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced a major funding opportunity for community geothermal projects. The Community Geothermal Heating and Cooling Design and Deployment Funding Opportunity will award between $300,000 and $13 million to projects that help communities design and deploy geothermal district heating and cooling systems.
Developing energy on a community basis makes renewable power available to individuals who would not otherwise have access to it, usually because of the costs. This has been the case especially for solar and wind power, which many homeowners are unable to install on their own properties.
Along those lines, the funding opportunity will be looking for diverse teams or coalitions that can address the economic, social and other needs of the community where the projects will be located. In addition, it will consider teams’ ability to develop workforce opportunities, including apprenticeships, job placement and training. Analysis, design and deployment capabilities will also factor into the review.
Submissions will be considered from coalitions in urban, suburban, rural, remote, island or islanded communities where geothermal can reduce dependence on fossil fuels such as natural gas or heating oil.
The grants are designed to increase widespread adoption of geothermal heating and cooling systems, with the goal of helping to decarbonize the building and electricity sectors, reduce energy costs for families and boost resilience.
To be eligible, geothermal projects must be able to supply at least 25% of the heating and cooling load in communities. These applications must also demonstrate that switching to a geothermal district heating and cooling system would result in greenhouse gas emission reductions for the community where the system is installed.
The DOE’s Geothermal Technologies Office, which is administering the funding opportunity, anticipates initially funding approximately 1-10 projects in varying amounts between $300,000 and $750,000. A second phase will include 1-4 additional awards between $2.5 million and $10 million.