Demand Management, GHG Emissions, Commercial, Distributed Generation, Sourcing Renewables  -  July 10, 2017

Google's 'X' spins off geothermal energy startup

Born out of Alphabet Inc.’s secretive lab division known as "X," a geothermal energy heating and cooling startup has been spun off to operate as an independent company.

The startup, known as Dandelion, makes geothermal systems meant for home use and will offer affordable heating and cooling services to homeowners, starting in New York state, according to a blog post from the CEO, eventually expanding to the northeast region of the U.S.

“Geothermal systems like ours let you pump heat out of your house, into the ground,” Kathy Hannun, co-founder and CEO of Dandelion, told CNBC. “This takes advantage of the fact that the ground is always around fifty to fifty-five degrees. So you don't have to pump heat against its natural gradient, like you do if you're running a conventional air conditioner on a hot day, blowing hot air out of the house into a very hot atmosphere, outside.”

After two years in X, Alphabet’s “moonshot factory”, Dandelion will be led by Hannun and James Quazi. While at X, Hannun led a team that investigated how to make geothermal systems more affordable and accessible to homeowners, according to a July 6 news release. James, who formerly founded a home improvement company that was sold to SolarCity, will lead Dandelion’s technology development.

According to CNBC, installing one of the systems would cost between $20,000 and $25,000 upfront, or in payments between $160 to $180 a month over 20 years. Systems will be available for installation starting in New York state, where an estimated 2 million homes still control temperatures using oil or propane.

Hannun also told CNBC that switching to geothermal heating and cooling would save the average New York fuel oil homeowner 110 tons of CO2 and $35,000 over 20 years and the average propane homeowner 130 tons of CO2 and $63,000 over 20 years.

Geothermal heating and cooling includes the installation of U-shaped pipes into the homeowner’s yard and pumping water through the pipes in the winter to absorb heat from the earth and pumping warm air out of the house into the earth during the summer.

Part of the project has included developing a better method for drilling loops into the ground. The result was a new, less intrusive drill that creates one or two holes a few inches wide, minimizing landscaping costs and yard disturbance and completing installation in less than a day.

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