The Welch’s open loop geothermal system uses a wind powered in-wall heating/cooling unit. - Photo courtesy of Anna Welch.
In Carthage, IN, Anna and Keith Welch are creating a geothermal model that uses sustainable energy to lower their utility costs for grain storage.
Inspired by Anna’s father’s interest in geothermal, the Welches installed geothermal in the construction of a log home. Not long after, they became interested in supplementing an open loop geothermal system with a wind powered in-wall heating/cooling unit to regulate the temperature and humidity of a community storage room.
In 2007, they submitted a proposal for a CSA Conference and Mini-School project, and were awarded $6,000 from the North Central Region Sustainable Research and Education Program’s (NCR-SARE) Farmer Rancher Grant Program. Their goal was to create a model that uses sustainable energy to lower utility costs as much as possible. Its primary focus is grain storage, but the facility will store a diverse number of local goods.
They have worked with a geo-thermal consultant, Randy Overman, as well as a local construction company to determine appropriate materials for maximum efficiency in the storage facility. It was determined that cement blocks insulated on the interior of the blocks, floor, and ceiling with R25 value sheets of insulation would be the most cost effective to construct, most resistant to rodents and insects, and most efficient to maintain a constant temperature of around 50 degrees.
2008’s field crops produced around 10,000 pounds of organic, edible grains and seeds. They constructed a small version of the storage room in a similar area which is concrete construction and cooled by geothermal, and were pleased with the results; the crops were dry and pest free.
“We are very pleased with this year's test results and are confident that the storage project will meet the grain storage needs that we face,” said Keith Welch. “We can maintain quality grains and seeds for our clients and other producers, who do not have the capacity to store several month's supply of fresh grains and seeds.”
They plan to complete a blue print with a materials list for the completion of the storage room and geothermal room, which is constructed adjacent to the cold storage. They separated the geothermal unit to avoid any dampness within the cold storage.
“We feel in the times that we are in, the small farmer will need to help his community to survive more than ever,” said Anna Welch. “The storage will not only be for our farm but for the community. Farmers will be able to keep their crops longer to extend the buying season at markets for consumers. With this concept, there would be less waste of needed food. The water can be reused as stated above or for any type of irrigation we may need for green houses or for the crops.”
Read more about the Welch project online at http://www.sare.org/reporting/report_viewer.asp?pn=FNC07-655&ry=2008&rf=0, or contact the NCR-SARE office for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.