Communal housing in Houston's East End hopes to promote sustainability by using geothermal energy

Chaz Miller Image
Saturday, February 25, 2023
Worth the price? Developer says geothermal energy saves big over time
CoHousing Houston is months away from becoming a reality, but a key element of the project is its plan to use the earth's heat to create electricity. Here's what developers hope to achieve.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- CoHousing Houston in the city's East End is months away from becoming a reality, but a key element of its identity is already being put into place.

The communal housing concept hopes to promote sustainability, and holes are being drilled into the ground so it can operate largely on geothermal energy.

"This is like drilling a water well," developer David Kelley said on the 62 holes needed to make the concept work. "We're going about 300 feet deep, and it's pretty much the same technology in creating a water well."

In its simplest form, geothermal energy uses the earth's heat to create electricity.

Kelley said it costs about 50% more than building a facility that uses traditional electricity, but it pays for itself in around five years.

"It is a quiet and reliable renewable energy source," he said. "You can reduce your electricity use by up to 50%."

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Facilities using this technology still have to be tied to the grid in order to operate the pumps needed to create renewable energy.

The technology is around, as the architect behind CoHousing Houston said it's being used at the Houston Endowment building near Memorial Park, as well as at Fire Station 55 on Cullen.

That being said, the use of this form of energy isn't widespread.

"It's not, but it is becoming more so," Kelley said. "I think we'll see more and more of these projects."

Kelley added that geothermal energy could be retrofitted to fix existing buildings, though it is at its most efficient when built as part of a new project.

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