Lady Bird Johnson Middle School: A Case History in Using Renewables

Learning about renewable forms of energy

LadyBird_0189_small.jpgSaving energy in the way we live today is an important objective for all of us. It will be even more important in the future when you are adults. Protecting the environment from the effects of burning fossil fuels in our homes, buildings and automobiles means turning to other forms of energy, like wind and solar power.

You know of these alternatives because you’ve seen them in use: wind turbines on the landscape and in the oceans and solar panels in fields and up on rooftops. We call these “renewable” forms of energy because they will not run out.

Introducing geothermal energy

There is another form of “renewable” energy that you should know about: it’s called geothermal. Geo means earth and thermal means heat.

50_sun_energy_Stored.pngThere is heat energy in the ground all the time that comes from the sun. In fact, 50% of the sun’s energy is absorbed by the earth. We have learned to tap that heat energy in the ground beneath us in order to heat and cool our homes and buildings, including our school buildings. 

Geothermal energy is drawn up from the earth in wintertime to provide heat, and in the summer the heat in our buildings is removed and placed back into the ground to cool our buildings. We connect pipes from the home or building into the ground and back. A device called a heat pump transfers the heat energy back and forth from the building to the ground.

Geothermal energy is very clean and efficient. It does not directly burn fossil fuels. And it is more efficient than either solar or wind power because, while the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow, the heat energy from the sun is always available to us.