Geothermal grant can have positive ripple effects

Sep 17, 2013

The grant secured by Haywood Community College to install a geothermal demonstration unit is one that could have broad implications for the county’s economy down the road.

As Haywood’s economy evolves, locally grown food is one of the rising stars. The use of chilling units that can help seal in the freshness of fruits and vegetables until they are marketed could be a game changer.

The $50,000 N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services grant will allow a demonstration unit to be installed at the Mountain Research Station. From there, HCC will offer classes to better acquaint those in the community with the advantages of geothermal heating and cooling. The unit will also allow community college students to get in on the ground floor when it comes to learning to build the units.

Part of the grant includes working with local growers on the feasibility of installing similar units at their farm.

Geothermal chilling involves using a water circulation system below the earth’s surface where the temperature is a constant 54 degrees. Cooled water is pumped into a unit that can refrigerate produce generally picked in the heat of the day in the hottest months of the year.

Immediate chilling will not only help the farm products stay fresher longer, but will give farmers a longer time to get them to the end markets.

Economic conditions in an area fluctuate, and that is evident in Haywood County. A decade ago, a vigorous real estate market and housing building boom fueled the local economy. That cycle is down, but the agricultural industry has become more aggressive in getting its fair share of the increasing interest in healthier, locally grown food.

It is nice to see the continued working relationship between the community college and the state ag department’s research station blossom into yet another avenue to help the local economy.