U.S. Energy Sec. Steven Chu (center) toured WaterFurnace International headquarters in Fort Wayne, Ind., with WaterFurnace Chairman Tim Shields (left) and Plant Manager Kevin Fockler.

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced a $50 million program that will encourage the installation of geothermal heating and cooling systems. Chu made the announcement in Fort Wayne, Ind., while visiting WaterFurnace International Inc., a manufacturer of residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional geothermal and water source heat pumps.

According to Sec. Chu, the $50 million program will support three programs. The largest of the three will fund competitive grants open to companies like WaterFurnace that manufacture geothermal heating and cooling systems. These grants will apply to cost-shared technology demonstration projects that retrofit or incorporate a minimum of 50 tons of heating and cooling capacity.

Another program will provide grants to improve geothermal system technology, and a third will create a national certification process to increase consumer confidence.

“We are very excited about Sec. Chu’s announcement today and the leadership WaterFurnace will continue to play in our country’s movement toward clean energy technology,” said WaterFurnace President and CEO Tom Huntington.

“But what’s more, it was an honor to have Sec. Chu recognize WaterFurnace as a people-oriented company; that not only do we stand out as a company that is progressive in our technology, but also a company invested in our people.”

“The products we build and promote are among the most environmentally friendly heating and cooling products available in the world today,” Huntington continued. “We’ve also implemented a number of initiatives here in Fort Wayne that reduce our carbon footprint and make a positive contribution to the environment of our community.”

Sec. Chu visited the city to discuss federal recovery efforts for auto communities and workers. As part of his visit, the secretary participated in a roundtable discussion with WaterFurnace executives, Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry, a WaterFurnace employee and a WaterFurnace dealer. Following the discussion, Sec. Chu toured the WaterFurnace facility with Huntington, Chairman of the Board Tim Shields, and Mayor Henry.

Shields said, “Because geothermal energy is homegrown, using geothermal energy reduces the country’s dependence on foreign oil and creates ‘green collar’ jobs in the United States. The allocation of funds announced by Sec. Chu will certainly have a positive impact on our business and the smaller businesses the geothermal industry supports, including heating and air conditioning contractors, electricians, plumbers, excavators, and drilling machine operators.”

In addition to these businesses, homeowners will benefit from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Under the provisions of this act, homeowners who install a geothermal system before Dec. 31, 2016, can take advantage of a federal renewable energy tax credit of 30 percent of the total investment for the system.

This tax incentive is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2009. Homeowners can also take advantage of utility rebates and state tax incentives where available to make geothermal systems more affordable than ever.

Publication date:06/29/2009