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Texas taps the Earth’s heat for energy

GeothermalEnergy // Illustration by Kate Walker

Texas taps the Earth’s heat for energy


Future. The neighborhood of Whisper Valley in Austin, Texas, is gearing up to be the largest development in the world to use a geothermal energy system, an energy grid powered by heat from below the Earth’s surface. Considering how efficient, renewable, and stable the power source is, geothermal energy may be instrumental in both fighting extreme weather events and reducing our carbon footprint.

Plug into the geogrid
The hottest new energy source may be the Earth’s core.

  • An Austin neighborhood called Whisper Valley uses a connected geogrid — an electricity-generating network using geothermal energy from way below the surface of the earth — to provide power to the homes.
  • Since the entire energy grid is underground, Whisper Valley was able to keep power during the Snowpocalypse that hit Texas in February 2021 and left 58 people dead when they couldn’t get any heat.
  • The geogrid was created by EcoSmart Solution, which is building another 200 homes in the neighborhood and has several other developments throughout the country.

While geogrids aren’t necessarily new, the one in Whisper Valley is the largest in the country and plans to expand to 7,500 homes (geared toward first-time buyers!) and amenities like schools, retail stores, and even offices.

All the buildings are also outfitted with solar panels, which keeps the monthly energy bill to one measly dollar. Amazing.

Get digging
So, how do geogrids actually work? According to Fast Company, the system is made of extremely deep wells that can tap into the constant temperature found below the Earth’s surface — a baseline of 60 degrees. Electric pumps then carry the energy up to the surface, which can be used to cool or heat homes. Best part? It uses 70% less energy than a standard heating and 50% less than an air conditioner.

And others have caught on to the benefits. Geothermal-powered developments have been built in the U.K. and the Netherlands, and Microsoft is building a big one for its 3-million-square-foot addition to its Washington campus.

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