You may have caught the article ending with the Seward City Assistant Manager Ron Long pine about having just passed a vote to invest more heavily in pulling marginal heat out of the ground (http://www.newsminer.com/news/alaska_news/seward-to-move-forward-with-renewable-energy-heating-project/article_dc2f9194-5172-11e5-8fd0-f3ea4a046ac8.html#.VecBc33IsHM.gmail. The comment had to do with wishing that the president could see how the city is becoming greener and assisting with climate change and all.
The President, if he knew, may or may not be impressed. Ground source heat pumps give a good return of 2 to 3 units of energy for every one put into the system during continual operation. Every renewable source has fossil fuels used to get capital moved, located and positioned- whether it is solar panels, wind turbines, or dams for hydro. There is a certain ’embedded’ energy (and carbon for that matter) which carbon auditing agents can calculate for this type of set up. Yet Ground Source Heat is circulated with continually running pumps- which tend to be electric. So, Seward might naturally ask “how much fossil fuels are used to make the electricity which runs the pumps?
Seward, in general, is a good location for several drainage, water table and temperature reasons for the utilization of ground source heat. In fact, the Sea Life center there has had a glycol loop (more or less) in the small boat harbor with surrounding temperatures around 40 degrees F. This has worked out well to pilot the project. The heat/glycol loop can also be buried in the soil, yet being against the hill right up into the sea, residential applications have been limited.
The Cold Climate Housing Research Center and myself (UAF School of Natural Resources and Extension) have worked with University of Wyoming to put out materials looking at various factsheets about installing ground source heat. Give a call at 474-6366 if you are interested!