Some of the smartest solutions really do lie right under our noses. In the case of Indie Energy, a Chicago-based cleantech company, the solution was buried in the ground - stored heat.
During the summer months, the sun warms the ground which then stores the heat. In the winter, while air temperatures are 0% or below, the ground remains a toasty 51%. That heat can then be extracted using thermal exchange technology, displacing up to 70% of a building's heating costs. In the summer the reverse is true -- the same temperature differential allows a building to be cooled with almost no energy.
But Indie Energy takes it a step further, and includes above ground solar thermal panels to create an integrated heating and cooling system. Add to that energy recovery ventilation (which pre-heats or pre-cools the incoming fresh air using the energy from the exhaust air). The Green Town Home project used this system in a 40-unit housing project, receiving a great deal of publicity (along with added home value) because of its ability to provide more comfort for less money and less CO2 emissions.
Indie Energy was recently funded by ShoreBank to expand their operations and training program. They awarded Indie Energy the loan because of their TBL (triple bottom line) policy which not only seeks profits for its shareholders, but also offers profits for both the local community and the environment.
Imagine if a small fraction of the trillions of dollars spent on oil wars were used to fund companies like Indie Energy. According to the Rocky Mountain Institute, space heating and cooling accounts for approximately 45% of total residential energy use. Last year we used 21.8 quad BTU's of energy for our homes. A barrel of oil contains about 5.8 million BTU's, so that's the equivalent of about 376 million barrels of oil per year we could save (theoretically) if the US had a developed geothermal infrastructure.
Ground source heat technologies are also great job creators as skilled drilling is required to install these systems. And since they are local jobs, money stays in the community and helps build the local economy.
This is why founder and CEO Daniel Cheifetz says, "We believe that the green technology industry is a key component of the future of America’s economy. A commitment like ours to workforce development will help keep America globally competitive.” Thankfully ShoreBank and private venture firms are stepping up to the plate to move the green economy forward.