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Community turns to revolutionary clean energy to help neighbors in need: '[We can] make the change that we know needs to happen'

"We can either just complain about it, or we can educate ourselves."

"We can either just complain about it, or we can educate ourselves."

Photo Credit: iStock

On the South Side of Chicago, an effort to decarbonize home heating and cooling is underway. 

Using the earth beneath the city and funds from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Biden Administration's Inflation Reduction Act, community leaders are beginning the initial phases of implementing geothermal heat pumps throughout the community.  

Geothermal heat pumps are both heating and cooling systems that use a series of water pipes and the relatively consistent subsurface temperatures of the Earth to provide warm water to homes on cold days and cool water on warm days. According to the Department of Energy, depending on your location, these ground temperatures can be anywhere between 45-75 degrees Fahrenheit.

As reported by Grist, in Chicago, the environmental justice group Blacks in Green is one of 11 community groups across the United States receiving this project funding. With the initial funding of $750,000, Blacks in Green has begun a phase of local meetings to assess community and household needs. 

This project will provide clean energy supplements for heating and cooling across a four-city block area containing nearly 100 multi-family and single-family buildings in a disadvantaged section of Chicago's South Side. 

The geothermal project led by Blacks in Green is unique in that the South Side of Chicago hosts a common urban layout of alleyways between buildings. These alleys provide construction teams with space in proximity to homes where they can build the necessary network of pipes and infrastructure without risking foundation damage to many of the old and historic buildings. 

Why is this exciting? 

While the Biden Administration has set the goal of a carbon-neutral economy by 2050, there has been little development around geothermal across the U.S. The projects funded through the DOE specifically focus on implementing geothermal heat pumps in remote, disadvantaged, and rural areas where surging energy prices have a larger impact on residents.

"Prices around energy costs are skyrocketing," said Rosazlia Grillier, a resident of the area. "And so we can either just complain about it, or we can educate ourselves about it and make the change that we know needs to happen." 

Although this form of heat pump technology cannot wholly replace home heating and cooling, it can have a massive economic and environmental benefit with little to no damage to the surrounding environment.

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