Text Size:   A+ A- A   •   Text Only
Find     
Site Image

Renewable Thermal Energy
Introduction
Energy use in the United States

About a third of the energy we consume is used for thermal purposes. So what is thermal energy?
 
Thermal energy is energy we use for heating and cooling buildings, as well as powering certain industrial processes. The majority of this energy comes from fossil fuels, but there is a growing opportunity to utilize this energy more efficiently and generate it using local energy resources such as biomass, geothermal, and solar.

Oregon Thermal Energy Baseline

 
Biomass
Harney District Hospital, Burns (DA Black photo)
Biomass is the most widely used and most abundant source of thermal energy in Oregon. Biomass is used to heat many of our homes through wood or pellet stoves. The wood products industry uses residuals from lumber production, thinning, and forest slash to power dry kilns and provide process steam to run their mills. Often this is done in a combined heat and power system that produces electricity as well as the heat.
 
We also can use biomass to heat our schools, hospitals and many other government or commercial facilities. The Days Creek Charter School is one example: Days Creek Case Study. For more information about biomass thermal energy systems, visit the links below.

 
Solar Thermal
Residential Solar Hot Water
Just like sunlight can be harnessed to generate electricity, it can also be used to produce heat. This energy can be used for water heating or to heat our homes or buildings. Your home can be heated using a passive solar design that collects, stores, and distributes the heat from the sun in the winter and rejects it in the summer, or an active solar heating system can be installed. To learn more about solar thermal applications, visit the links below.

 
Geothermal
The heat from the earth can be used in aGeothermal_compilation.jpg variety of ways. It can be used to generate electricity, power a district heating system, or the relatively stable temperature of the earth can provide heating and cooling through ground-source heat pumps. Oregon has areas with great geothermal resources. For information on geothermal options, visit the links below.

 
District Heating
District heating is typically a centralized system that provides space heat to several buildings (commercial or residential) in a small, delineated service territory. It is possible for a district heating system to provide industrial process heat, but with much greater intensity and volume of heat demand.
 
Oregon has a number of examples of district heating systems. Oregon State University’s Energy Center is a 6.5 megawatt facility that provides heat to campus buildings. The Seattle Steam Company provides heat to approximately 200 buildings in Seattle’s downtown business district. To learn about these projects and other district heat opportunities, visit the links below.
 
Request for Comments on District Heating Opportunities (due March 30, 2012)