Dandelion Produces Cheaper Geothermal Heating
Tom Spendlove posted on July 20, 2017 | 1961 views

The mission of Project Dandelion was to make heating and cooling more affordable using geothermal energy. After a handful of years as a Solve for X project the team has now graduated to a separate company outside the moonshot factory. Dandelion is starting in eleven counties in New York, with an eye on expanding in the future.

Dandelion’s initial problem with geothermal was the expense, but a full set of issues with the current state existed. Installation of the ground loops was “messy and intrusive” because the drills for the wells were massive machines capable of drilling to depths over 1,000 feet. The systems only required a few four inch diameter holes that reached depths of hundreds of feet. The radical moonshot thinking was a redesign of the drills for pipe installation with an eye on large reductions in system pricing.

The list of ideas that were tested on Kathy Hannun’s recent blog post is stunning. Modified jackhammers, liquid nitrogen used to freeze the ground, and high pressure water jets have me mentally picturing movie montages of rapid fire research and development. Testing eventually yielded a long thin drill, capable of placing one or two holes at smaller diameters. The system needed less space and used less resources to operate. Using their new method ground loops for a geothermal system could be installed in one day, down from a three to four day cycle.

Overall this system of rapid installation seems like it could really push the geothermal industry forward, with a focus on cost reduction and a secondary benefit to shorter and less disruptive installations. The one thing that’s disappointing to me is how little information we’ve previously seen about Dandelion and this project, along with a lack of technical details that are now proprietary. If anything the big shiny new technology is being downplayed as a part of launching a new company. This feels to me more like a new level of geothermal feasibility instead of a short incremental change, and it will be interesting to see what happens in the coming years with Dandelion and their geothermal moonshot.

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