Demonstration of geothermal heating/coolingThe Alternative Energy Enterprise’s Geothermal team has been active for the last 4 years, continued by students with a passion to harness the earth’s energy. Results of the team’s past projects include a community guide book on mine water geothermal energy, geothermal system calculator and an educational exhibit displaying the benefits of mine water geothermal energy.

Currently, the Geothermal team is working with the Houghton County Arena to reduce the costs of maintaining their ice rink. The aim of Geothermal’s current plan is to supplement geothermal energy with solar energy in order to reduce costs of maintaining the freezing temperatures need for the rink, all while heating the seating area. The energy requirements are fairly high as a large amount of water is needed to be kept frozen constantly, requiring much more power that the average house which uses geothermal heating and cooling, so the team is also looking into installing solar panels to reduce energy consumption.

Houghton County Arena receives a good amount of sunshine, due to a lack of trees and tall buildings nearby, which allows for the placement of solar panels to offset the high cost of electric power in the western UP. As the available solar energy increases during spring and summer, it might be even possible to extend the hockey season at Houghton County Arena, if not make it all year round.

Previous projects include partnering with Richelle Winkler and her social science students at Michigan Tech to develop the guidebook, “A Community Guide to Mine Water Geothermal Heating and Cooling,” as well as a geothermal calculator to help consumers determine if geothermal is right for them, and developing an interactive educational exhibit on mine water heating and cooling for the Keweenaw National Historical Park Visitor’s Center in Calumet, MI. The exhibit’s features include functioning geothermal heat pumps, working in heating and cooling modes, with a real time efficiency display.

The team has presented their work at the EPA People, Prosperity, and the Planet National Sustainable Design Expo, where they won the American Institute of Chemical Engineers’ (AlChE) Youth Council on Sustainable Science and Technology award for their work with Richelle Winkler.