Ikea Denver Leads the Way for Big Box Geothermal Installations

geothermal project

Swedish superstore Ikea has emerged as an unlikely clean technology champion. The company's $77 million greentech fund, for example, is investing in everything from recycling technologies to solar panels. Now an Ikea store outside Denver, Colorado is set to lead the charge for big box geothermal installations.

Ikea has partnered with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to install a geothermal heating system in an under-construction store outside Denver--the first geothermal installation for the retailer. The system, which is being installed under the store's parking garage, will feature 130 five and a half-inch diameter holes located 500 feet deep. A liquid will loop down through a piping system from the surface to the bottom of the underground holes, where it will bring warm or cold air back up to the surface (depending on what the store needs).

The geothermal system won't be able to provide all the store's heating and cooling needs--Ikea will have a backup ice storage system for the hottest summer days--but it will keep the store at a comfortable temperature most of the time.

Ikea hasn't revealed how much the system will cost, but it will be mutually beneficial to both the store and NREL. In a press release, NREL explains:

The Ikea/NREL project could be the benchmark for a credible standard for geothermal installation in large-scale retail stores nationwide. NREL's data base will be open to researchers around the world to use for their models, Erin Anderson, a senior geothermal analyst at NREL, said. "We're trying to collect data on how it actually performs," which could prove invaluable to future projects. "By collecting actual live data on the performance of systems, you have better insight on what needs to be improved. We'll be able to say with confidence, 'if you do it this way, it will work this well.'"

Not bad for a store best known for its cheap and easy-to-install furniture.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

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