U-M, Ann Arbor team up on geothermal study, led by Ethan Miller, M.U.P. '10

Article written by Concentrates’ Jon Zemke, May 12, 2010.

Geothermal is one of those terms environmentally conscious people are aware of but not necessarily familiar with, even in these sustainability oriented times.

Normal responses to, ‘What is geothermal?’ include the likes of, ‘It’s good for the environment but how does it work?’ ‘It’s something I would consider doing but isn’t expensive?’

The city of Ann Arbor is now trying to overcome some of that unfamiliarity with a study it has commissioned from a University of Michigan Urban Planning student. Ethan Miller recently received his masters from U-M and conducted the study, which examines the costs of geothermal in many different metrics.

The costs can range from initial installation costs (usually high) to energy costs to use (normally very low). There are also costs of how much pollution does it prevent? How much energy is saved? How does it stack up against other heating-and-cooling options? What does it mean for local land-use policy since geothermal fields can be land consuming?

“It is more focused on what a large-scale project would look like and what tracts of land could be used for such a purpose,” Miller says. “How much square footage does a parking lot of geothermal heat?”

The city’s Energy Commission will examine the study this week.

This article first appeared in Concentrate Media. It can be found here.

Miller’s faculty advisor on the project was urban planning assistant professor, Larissa Larsen.