For a big box retailer, IKEA is definitely among the more green out there. It was recently one of the first to begin ending sales of non-energy efficient incandescent light bulbs. Now it is developing a store in suburban Denver, Colorado which will sport a heating and cooling system powered by geothermal energy. This system is being developed as well as a research project for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
This system, according to the NREL, will be the first in an IKEA store here in the United States. 130 holes are being dug 500 feet into the earth beneath the store’s parking garage. The geothermal heat pumps driven by the energy collected from these holes could potentially use 25 percent to 50 percent less electricity than conventional heating or cooling systems. It is estimated as well by the Environmental Protection Agency that these types of pumps in general can reduce energy consumption—and corresponding emissions—up to 72 percent compared to traditional electric resistance heating and standard air-conditioning equipment.
As for this specific project, IKEA is letting the NREL collect data “on how it actually performs” to serve for what could be a benchmark for a credible standard for geothermal installation in large-scale retail stores nationwide. At the heart of this project, which is what the researchers are studying, is looking at how, because of thermal inertia, the propensity for soil is to heat up or cool down much slower than air or water. As the NREL explains, “the trick is to run a liquid in a loop down to that pleasant temperature and bring it back up to help keep things cool in the summer and warm in the winter. When warm air at the surface is passed over the cool pipes, the air gets cooler. When the air is cooler than the liquid, it is warmed as it passes over the pipes.”
“The geothermal heating and cooling system is something that globally IKEA has been considering for a number of years,” said Douglas Wolfe, IKEA project construction manager for the store, in a statement. “We’re very excited about working with NREL. The partnership has turned out to be very beneficial for both of us. It is providing both of us with useful information about operating such programs. Seeing the information in real time will allow us to determine and manage the efficiency of the geothermal system in Centennial as well as planning for future operations at this location as well as at other IKEA stores.”