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How Dandelion is disrupting the geothermal energy space

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Kathy Hannun, co-founder & president, Dandelion Energy, joins Yahoo Finance to breakdown the company’s renewable energy solutions and its impact for American homeowners.

Video Transcript

MYLES UDLAND: Renewable energy has been one of the hottest trades in the market over the last year or so, as investors continue to focus on ESG strategies, the future of climate change, and whether electric vehicles and combustion engines really are finally reaching that tipping point. One company, however, is working in the geothermal energy space. They just raised $30 million in a series B round.

We're joined now by Kathy Hannun, who is the Co-founder and President at Dandelion Energy. Kathy, thanks for joining the show this morning. I just want to start by talking a bit about geothermal, how it works and where it fits into this future of power that we all, we're all working towards. We don't know exactly what it looks like. The old world is clearly on its way out. And where does what Dandelion's working on fit into that as far as you see it?

KATHY HANNUN: So there are different types of geothermal. The type that we're working on is a home heating and cooling solution. So this is a replacement for natural gas, heating oil or propane. And homeowners can actually just use the thermal energy right under their yards to provide heating, cooling or hot water for their home.

JULIE HYMAN: And Kathy, when we think about geothermal as a replacement for these various things, who does it work best for? I mean, you tend to think of geothermal, I don't know if there are certain geographic areas of the country that are easier to access. Is this something that could theoretically be anywhere?

KATHY HANNUN: This could. So when you think about geothermal electricity, so utility scale, very large popular in Iceland, that, you can't do anywhere. When you think about geothermal heating and cooling for homes, you can really use any home that has enough yard where you can access the ground, which is most homes. So there's really not a lot of limits to where you can do geothermal heating and cooling. It works best for homes that need, that are in climates that have cold winters and warm summers. So homes where you need a lot of heating and cooling.

BRIAN SOZZI: Kathy, during the pandemic, we've seen really a great reinvention of one's home. A lot of folks really, have taken the time to redo their homes. What have you seen in your business during the pandemic? And what are some of the hottest states?

KATHY HANNUN: Yeah, I would agree with that. I mean, we're seeing a lot of people are moving right now. And this has been especially prevalent in our business. When we see city, people who lived in the city, so let's say, New York City, who are moving upstate. They want more room, they're sick of living in a small apartment during the pandemic.

And I think a lot of these homeowners are surprised to realize that a lot of the homes you can buy that are outside New York City actually need to be heated with fuel oil. It's not something people are used to. They're not that happy about it. And so a lot of people are really eager to find an alternative. And that's been great for our business, because we're able to show, look, you can actually pay less for heating and use renewable thermal energy instead of dirty and expensive fuels like fuel oil.

JULIE HYMAN: And Kathy, just to summarize how exactly it works, and I know this, because I watched a helpful video that's on your website from I think "This Old House," the TV show. Essentially, if you drill down a little bit, there's a steady 50 degree temperature that is in the ground. And so for example, if the air temperature is 100 degrees or 90 degrees, you don't have to necessarily change it as much.

Or if it's 30 degrees, for example, you're kind of using electricity to equalize it within the home to say, a comfortable level of 68 or 70 degrees. Am I explaining, first of all, I should ask if I'm explaining it correctly. And second of all, talk to me then about the role that electricity still has to play in this whole equation.

KATHY HANNUN: As you mentioned, and you're exactly right, electricity is used to run the geothermal heating and cooling system. So a lot of our homeowners for example, have solar panels that they use to run the geothermal system. Those are two very compatible technologies. But your explanation is largely correct. The ground has a very large reservoir of renewable thermal energy. It tends to just remain at about 50 degrees Fahrenheit underground year round. And so in the summer, you're able to take heat out of your house, like you would with an air conditioner.

But instead of rejecting it into the very hot outside air like an air conditioner does, you're rejecting it into the cool underground environment, which is just way more efficient. So you're able to do that much less expensively than you would with an air conditioner. And then the whole system runs in reverse in the winter. It collects heat from the ground and then uses electricity to boost the temperature, so that it's nice and warm and your home is, you can set the thermostat to whatever temperature you want and the heat pump will bring it to that temperature.

MYLES UDLAND: And so then, Kathy, I think the natural question, and again, you're the expert. We're all trying to figure this out. I'm thinking here like does the ground temperature change over time? Like, I mean, I guess my question is sort of the durability of this over time. Because the real problem with fossil fuels is that they're just going to disappear one day. But if I have a system like this, can I count on the kind of system working in perpetuity?

KATHY HANNUN: Yeah, that's a great question. And it does come into account in how we design the system. So when we're designing a geothermal heating and cooling system for a home, we size that ground loop that goes into the yard to be long enough so that the ground around the ground loop will not change temperature over time. So in the winter, you'll be taking heat out of the ground, in the summer, you'll be putting heat back into the ground. And that cycle will just continue indefinitely. And the ground temperature should not change.

And this is really helped by the fact that the ground contains a lot of renewable thermal energy. And homes, even if they're big, are not actually using that much energy compared to the amount in the ground. So we're both adding and removing. And just like it's a very, very small amount compared to just the total environment under there. So it will be a renewable resource. You will not have to worry about depleting it.

MYLES UDLAND: All right. Planet Earth continues to be an amazing place to live and thrive. Kathy Hannun, Co-founder and President at Dandelion Energy. Kathy, really appreciate you joining the show this morning.