Geothermal Takes a Bite Out of the Big Apple
New York Geothermal Energy Organization conference examines geothermal’s present and future
In a political climate that may not seem conducive to green technologies, New York rises to the top among states taking the initiative to press forward. Though New York’s initiatives are squarely set around reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the real fruits are lots of jobs for mechanical professionals and all of the related trades, from architects to laborers.
The New York Geothermal Organization (NY-GEO) hosted its annual conference April 19-20 in Albany, New York. The event, which registered as the largest in the organization’s history, allowed elected officials, government agencies, and industry professionals from around the world to share the progress being made toward implementation of geothermal heating and cooling technologies.
During his keynote speech, U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., said geothermal should be the obvious choice for heating, because, with geothermal, we are using our soil for the fuel.
Tonko identified geothermal as a proven method by which heating can be accomplished without combustion, which he labeled a necessity to help reduce on-site GHG emissions.
“Reducing emissions from heating and cooling is non-negotiable,” said Tonko.
John Rhodes, president and CEO of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), reminded attendees that New York’s ambitious plans to reduce GHG emissions 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050 requires well-designed programs.
Rhodes shared his 4-fold approach to investing $5 billion into the efforts:
- Reduce first costs, including soft costs for implementation;
- Make financing available to all and facilitate a better return on investment (ROI);
- Accelerate innovative solutions; and
- Direct full value to clean energy solutions, which is the premise of reforming the energy vision or REV.
Rhodes, who was recently nominated as chairman of the New York Public Service Commission by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, stated the $15 million currently allotted is simply a “bridge incentive” while NYSERDA works internally and with stakeholders to ensure that the geothermal heating and cooling market moves forward in a healthy and sustainable fashion. He made clear that NYSERDA needs and seeks the best and brightest advice from industry stakeholders.
Ken Daly, president National Grid New York, which serves 4 million customers and provides electricity and natural gas to customers in upstate New York and natural gas to customers in Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens, and Long Island, stated that National Grid is more a “Clean Energy Company” that a utility. Daly made this concept clear as he shared that National Grid had converted more folks to solar than to natural gas in recent years. He also shared the vision of a geothermal conversion for New Yorkers, citing that 57 percent of energy consumption comes from heating and cooling.
The conference was filled with various workshops and exhibitors, including an ASHRAE luncheon session, where John Manning, founder, Earth Sensitive Solutions LLC, shared “Geothermal Systems for Campus Buildings.” Another session, facilitated by New York’s Capital Region Builders and Remodelers Association (CRBRA), focused on “The Future of Energy in Homes.”
Much of the conference was focused toward geothermal educational efforts and associated reduction of first costs.
Several vendors were on hand to promote their geothermal products, including GEO®Hourly, which boasted its updated geothermal exchanger design software that provides accurate hourly load data for exchanger design, realizing the potential to significantly reduce drilling costs, a concept right in line with NYSERDA challenges to reduce first cost.
Another company on hand was European-based Kilfrost. The company produces a non-petroleum based glycol that uses FDA-approved ingredients, and significantly reduces fluid viscosity and related pumping power while increasing thermal properties of the fluid in a closed-loop geothermal system. The industry currently specified food-safe propylene glycol (typically).
The capstone of the two-day event continues to be the “Top-Job” competition. Among the entries included the impressive St Patrick’s Cathedral geothermal conversion in Manhattan, and the William F. Buck Middle School conversion from the public city water mains in Valley Stream, New York. With such an impressive list of entries, the decision was difficult for the panel of judges. The 72-unit Lockport Housing Authority geothermal conversion won the day. Jens Ponikau of Buffalo Geothermal worked closely with the housing authority to convert the facility with a small footprint, on time and on budget.
GET IN THE LOOP
Geothermal HVAC is a disruptive technology. That simply means that geothermal is replacing standard HVAC systems. This is a fact made clear by governing authorities in New York. Their neighbors to the north in Ontario have already made geothermal heating a cooling a priority, outlawing natural gas from building codes by 2030. Geothermal loops provide permanent infrastructure for buildings and eliminate outside equipment and cooling tower, and the need for combustion heating. Become a part of this exciting market segment now by contacting NY-GEO or the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association (IGSHPA) and becoming a member and an approved contractor or designer. For more information, visit https://igshpa.org.
Publication date: 5/22/2017