Thanksgiving is all finished now, but turkey farms still have to take care of their birds, and that means expensive heating bills in fall and winter. If a University of Missouri engineering professor can replicate his geothermal farm system prototype in other settings, he may have created technology that saves American farmers huge amounts of money in the future.
“Our first set of performance data suggests that farmers could cut their heating costs in half at current propane prices. Currently, two units are installed at the test farm. Other farmers could begin installing units on their turkey farms as soon as next year, for use by next winter,” explained Yun-Sheng Xu. (Source: University of Missouri)
Soil temperatures just several feet below the surface can range from 55 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Placing a series of horizontal tubes in this zone can warm or cool water to its temperature range. When water is cold, placing it in underground tubes can raise the temperature so that heating it up to the required 90 degrees for young turkey or 70 for the adult birds uses less propane, and therefore money can be saved. (The same system can be used in summer to help cool a building containing many animals.)
The cost of propane fluctuates and, if it rises too high, it can eat into or completely erode a farmer’s income. So having an affordable, renewable, consistent source of onsite energy could be quite a boon for small farmers whose livelihood depends on a number of external costs they have no control over. Another possibility is building artificial wetlands over the geothermal system, in order to add another lay of insulation.
Image Credit: University of Missouri