Community Geothermal Study

The project: IMEG is leading the analysis and design of a community-scale geothermal system for the City of Ann Arbor, MI, one of 11 similar projects selected and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Geothermal Technologies Office. The project focuses on the city’s Bryant neighborhood, an underserved, energy-burdened community of 262 households, 75 percent of which are considered low-income; over 50 percent of residents are minorities and 50 percent are renters.

Goals: 1) Design a community-scale geothermal system that covers at least 75% of the heating and cooling load for all 262 households as well as for a local school, a county community mental health service center, and the City of Ann Arbor’s public works facility. 2) Lower the neighborhood’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40%, significantly improve indoor air quality, eliminate the energy burden for low-income residents, and enhance year-round comfort. 3) Crystallize community-centered design and support for creating the nation’s first fully decarbonized existing low-income neighborhood in America by providing a series of resident-centered and resident-designed engagement activities. 4) Receive second-phase funding from the DOE to deploy the system.

Design approach: The analysis and design team anticipates using a fifth-generation geothermal district heating and cooling (5GDHC) system. The team will collect data on existing HVAC systems in the project geography to assess loads, age and end of life, and opportunities to improve efficiency and create a timeline for either one-time and/ or phased conversion to geothermal. This data plus detailed hourly load profiles of natural gas and electricity usage for all sites will be integrated into an energy model of the community, from which the team will size geothermal field(s) for 100% load and hybrid solutions.

Challenge: Determine best locations for inserting geothermal wells and routing underground pipelines while minimizing disruption and gaining resident buy-in.

Solution: The team will assess the feasibility of proposed designs through design charettes with residents, geothermal experts, and directional drilling experts as well as conduct a neighborhood impact assessment.

Expected outcome: By late fall of 2024, the team will have at least one conceptual design, technical report, and installed cost estimates for a viable district geothermal heating and cooling system to meet the project goals. It also will have a plan for how to scale the workforce to support greater adoption of geothermal and other decarbonization technologies.


  • Vision: Create the nation’s first fully decarbonized low-income neighborhood
  • Neighborhood decarbonization: Holistic application of solar, geothermal, electrification, and energy storage
  • Schools and education: Provide educational opportunities and exposure to sustainability
  • Removal of energy burden: Lower day-to-day living expenses and stabilize neighborhood
  • Sustainable and replicable: A model to replicate at the local, regional, and national levels
  • Diversity, Equity: Solutions reflect the realities, needs, and aspirations of a Justice40 neighborhood
  • Collaboration: Private industries, utilities, residents, nonprofits, trades, and educational institutions
  • Workforce development: Work with trades to recruit more BIPOC and women and create green energy jobs

For more information, listen to the IMEG podcast episode, “Ann Arbor seeks to lift up an underserved neighborhood.”

City of Ann Arbor
Ann Arbor, MI
Services Provided

Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing, Energy Modeling, Energy Audit, Study, Assessment