America’s clean energy economy is expanding, and small businesses such as Evans Energy Development of Paola, Kansas, are reaping the benefits as companies and homeowners switch to geothermal energy.
Last year, 80 percent of Evans Energy Development’s revenue came from installing geothermal loop systems, which cool and heat buildings by using the Earth’s stable temperature.
Geothermal loop systems consist of pipes buried just below the ground that contain liquid. During winter, the liquid absorbs the Earth’s heat and pumps it to a unit located inside the building. In summer, the process reverses as heat is moved from the building to the buried pipes.
Once the systems are installed, the cost of heating and cooling homes plummets 30 to 60 percent, according to Energy Savers.
"The past years of high energy prices makes people very conscious of cost," said Scott Evans, the drilling company's owner.
Scott said another factor enhancing geothermal's appeal is a federal tax-credit program. As part of the Recovery Act, residents who install geothermal heat pumps can receive up to a 30-percent tax credit with no cap. Commercial buildings can earn a 10-percent credit. Last year, half of Scott’s business came from installing geothermal loop systems for commercial buildings.
"Geothermal was big before the tax credits and especially because of the tax credits," Scott said. "It's been a huge advantage."
Since geothermal power does not burn fossil fuels, it will play a starring role in the country's clean energy economy.
"Geothermal is a very green technology," Scott said. "It's the way everybody is heading."
The alternative power source's popularity is making America a global leader in geothermal energy. According to a report by the Geothermal Energy Association, about a third of the world's 10,000 megawatts of geothermal capacity is in the U.S.
That number is predicted to swell in the future. GEA estimates up to 6,442 MW of new geothermal power plant capacity is under development in America. Fourteen states have between 140 and 150 new geothermal projects in the works, and the industry is growing at a rate of 15 percent annually.