Popular Search Terms: Geothermal

How New England Can Eliminate Oil Use For Single Family Homes for Less Than We’re Spending on Solar PV

I first published this post in Renewable Energy World and it received a lot of comments, mostly getting into all the silly technical details of geothermal and not addressing how to implement policy to eliminate oil use. My hope is that any conversation on HeatSpring Magazine that comes from this can be about implementing policy. The article was also republished on Alternative Energy Stocks and Free Hot Water blog. My conclusion from this is simple, catchy headlines and being really specific about the argument in the meat of the article by using real numbers, backing those numbers up with logic and calculations is extremely powerful. The other lesson is that people really hate oil, and heat pumps along with biomass are the most proven technologies to eliminate a lot of oil use, nothing new needs to be invented, it’s just policy. 

Here’s the post

We can use simple, effective, and proven policies that have been used to supercharge the New England solar PV industry to incentivize renewable thermal technologies and eliminate oil use for single family homes. Here’s the best part, the policies will be cheaper than solar PV, they will create more local jobs per kW installed and displace more expensive fuel.

At Renewable Energy Vermont 2012, I delivered a presentation on how a production-based incentive for renewable thermal technologies, like the $29/MWh incentive in New Hampshire, would be cheaper than the current solar PV incentive in Vermont and could have a larger impact. The current incentive for solar PV in Vermont is $271/MWh for 25 years, but we could eliminate oil use for single family homes with a policy for renewable thermal technologies of $100/MWh guaranteed for five years. This policy would be much cheaper than the solar PV incentive and would drastically increase the adoption of biomass, air source heat pumps and ground source heat pumps. It would put a huge dent in oil consumption for single family homes, save money and create local jobs. If you’re new or curious about thermal incentives, Renewable Energy World has done some great reporting on it.

As I started to run the numbers when I was creating the presentation, I was blown away by how much energy renewable thermal technologies produced, and how valuable that energy is when displacing oil, propane and electricity. Many attendees at the talk had never seen the numbers broken out in a way that easily compares apples to apples. However, as any engineer knows, converting kWs to tons to BTUs is relatively simple. When we compare these technologies in the same terms, it starts to provide a very clear picture of the results that can be achieved by investing in proven renewable energy thermal technologies. These technologies include solar thermal systems, geothermal/ground source heat pumps, air source heat pumps, and biomass.

For the purpose of this article, I’m going to compare solar thermal and ground source heat pumps to a standard solar PV project in a baseline home. I’m using these technologies because I’m the most familiar with them. However, further analysis should absolutely include air source heat pumps and biomass technology.

Background: Why look at renewable thermal technologies?

We waste a lot of money on oil for space heating. Yes, oil industry, my goal is to put you out of business. But don’t worry, we’ll train you to install these new technologies. In addition to building and retrofitting buildings to have tighter shells, there are only three technologies, yes three, that can eliminate on-site fossil fuel use: biomass (pellets and cord wood), air source heat pumps, and ground source heat pumps. Here are a few pieces of data on why a focus on oil usage is so important for New England.

The EIA separates the US into five energy regions.

The Northeast uses the most oil for space heating, which also happens to be an extremely expensive fuel source. Six million homes use oil for heat, and the average home uses 800 gallons of oil per year, which equals roughly 4.8 billion gallons per year.

If we assume that the average residential price is $4 per gallon or slightly higher, home oil-heat spending is roughly $20 billion dollars per year.

These are huge industry trends, so let’s break the data down into something more tangible. U.S. census data reveals the number of single family homes in each specific state, this is the “total homes” column. I then broke down the heating fuel mix for each state, provided by the EIA, and found the number of single family homes in each state that use a high-cost fuel (oil, propane). You can see that the numbers are sizable. I then took the total number of homes and divided it by the number of homes using an expensive fuel source, which you can see on the far right. This means that nine out of 10 homes in Maine are using a very expensive fuel source. In Massachusetts, 54 percent, or five in 10 homes, use these sources.   However, Massachusetts-specific data reveals that some communities use natural gas (that’s green). However, there are a large number of communities where 60+ percent of single family homes use an expensive fuel source.

Solar PV is a great investment but doesn’t address oil use — how can we address this problem?

The goal of this post is to show how we can use policies and incentives that have already been successfully implemented in the solar PV industry to address fossil fuel use for space heating in New England. I’ll provide a basic comparison of how solar pv and renewable thermal technologies compare when looking at fuel savings for property owners, direct job creation, and the cost of the incentive.

With that said, let me be clear: solar PV is a great investment. The purpose of this post is to be a “yes…AND”conversation. Solar PV will do nothing to address direct fossil fuel use. Additionally, the solar PV industry is large enough to be a great comparison tool because many people are familiar with the economics of solar PV. Thus, using solar pv as a baseline will make it easier to communicate the value of other technologies.

I’m also looking to address a question I recieve often: If geothermal heat pumps are so great, why aren’t more people using them?

How do we look at renewable energy policies?

When trying to understand renewable thermal technologies and the impact of different policies, a small number of variables seem to be critical for policy makers.

  1. Reduction in utility bills for property owners and reduction in fossil fuel use that is imported
  2. Local job creation
  3. Amount that said incentive costs for the state or utility
  4. Water quality and air quality issues
I could be missing something here, so let me know if I am.

Let’s create a baseline home for comparison purposes.
This is the home we’ll be dealing with. If you’re not into the technical part of things, please feel free to skim over this, I just want to be extremely clear with my methodology and calculations. If anything is unclear, please let me know; I’ll be happy to address any questions.
  • 2,000 square feet
  • 180 degrees
  • 10 pitch roof (40 degrees) — enough space for a 5-kW system.
  • Requires 63MM BTU for heating (read average shell)
  • Existing heating system is oil furnace with AC that must be replaced within two years. Replacing the existing oil furnace and AC unit with the same technology will cost $10,000.
  • Electric rate is $.17kWh inflating at 3 percent per year
  • Oil prices are at $4.00/gallon inflating at 5 percent per year
Let’s create a baseline with diferent technologies based on current installed costs, incentives and energy costs for an average home.
1. Solar PV
  • $5.50 per watt times 5 kW = $27,500
  • For those of you who think this is high. Think again. Read more on residential prices in Massachusetts at The Open PV project and the MA CEC’s website. Also, I have no reason to make solar PV seem high, I love the technology am a huge supporter of it.
  • Produces 1,000 kWh per kW installed = 5,000 kWh or 5 MWh
  • Value of energy is $850
  • Local jobs created: 15 man hours per kW installed –> 75 man hours (does not include sales, support and supply chain jobs, just direct construction jobs)
  • Percent of year installed costs driven by rebates: 44 percent
  • Gross installed costs to value of energy: $32
  • Net installed cost to value of energy: $19
  • 20 Year IRR, not considering equipment lifetime or O+M: 9 percent

2. Solar Thermal

  • $110 per square foot gross installed costs
  • 80 square foot system (2 modules @ 40 square feet per module)
  • Gross installed costs = $8,800
  • Net energy production per year: 4,100 kWh (140 therms)
  • Value of energy production displacing #2 heating oil = $443 (140 therms is approximately 110 gallons of fuel oil)
  • Local Jobs Created: 20 man hours per module (this is based on anecdotalle experience not an industry study, because they don’t exist) = 40 man hours.
  • Incentives in Massachusetts: ITC, Personal Tax Credit, MA CEC Cash Rebate
  • Percent of year one installed costs driven by rebates: 62 percent
  • Gross Installed Costs to value of energy: $20
  • Net installed costs to value of energy: $7.50
  • 20 Year IRR: 12 percent

3. Geothermal

  • Oil and AC replacement costs = $10,000
  • Geothermal costs = $9,000 per ton X 4 tons = $36,000
  • 4 ton = 14-kW system
  • Geothermal premium = $26,000
  • Oil heating costs = $3,000
  • Geothermal heat costs = $1,000
  • Geothermal Fuel Savings = $2,000
  • Net geothermal energy production from the ground loop = 13,500 kWh
  • Incentives: 30 percent ITC from $36,000 = $10,800
  • 90 man hours per ton = 360 man hours for the job (25 percent of installed costs is labor: $36,000 X .25 = $9,000, and $1,000 is a week’s wage for 40 hours, so nine weeks work * 40 hours = 360 man hours / 4 tons)
  • Percent of year 1 installed costs driven by rebates: 41 percent
  • Gross installed costs / value of energy: $13
  • Net installed costs / value of energy: $7.6
  • 20 Year IRR: 14 percent

For those of you that love tables, I’ve put the data on a table as well.


There’s a lot of information in the above graph, so I made a few simple graphs that display and answer some specific questions.

Installed Cost per Watt

Geothermal costs roughly $2.57 per watt, while solar thermal costs $3.96 and solar PV is around $5.50. Yes, a lot of residential solar pv projects still cost $5.50 per watt. You may be able to reduce this to $4.00 per watt on new construction, but this trend is decreasing.

Energy Production per Installed kW

Solar PV generally produces 1,000 kWhs per year for every 1 kW installed. An average geothermal system, running at COP of 3.75 delivering 63MMBTU will produce 13,500 kWh net energy from the ground loop annually, backing out the electric use for the pumps and compressor. A 4-ton system is 14 kW, so it produces slightly less then 1 kWh of net energy for every 1 kW installed. The solar thermal system is only a 2.22-kW system, but will produce 4,100 kWh of energy in one year.

Gross Invested Cost per Dollar of Energy Output

This metric is simple. Without considering any incentives (using just gross installed costs), how many dollars need to be invested to get $1 in fuel savings? Geothermal and solar thermal are clearly the winner here when displacing fuel oil. If they were displacing propane or electric they would be higher.

Gross Installed Cost to Net Installed Cost: How much do incentives drive returns?

This metric looks at how much incentives decrease installed costs by taking the gross installed costs and dividing them by all available incentives. What we see is that in Massachusetts, solar thermal is the most heavily subsidized technology, followed by solar pv and geothermal.

Net Invested Cost per Dollar of Energy Output:

After incentives are considered, we can look at the net energy investment required to get $1 in energy savings. Solar thermal and geothermal become more equal at $7.60 and solar PV is around $19. This means that to replace oil with a geothermal project in Massachusetts, you need to invest $7 to get $1 in fuel savings in year one.

Total Man Hours Needed per Job

This is looking at the total direct construction jobs to install a project. This is not based on any reports (because they don’t exist for solar thermal and geothermal), but anecdotal evidence. A typical 4-ton geothermal system will require 360 direct man hours in construction, and a solar thermal system will take 40 hours, and a solar PV project takes around 75 hours.

Direct Jobs Created per kW Installed

When we look at direct man hours per kW installed, geothermal and solar thermal create the most jobs, followed by solar PV. The reason for this has to do with the type of equipment being used. For geothermal and solar thermal technology, commodity equipment is used and repackaged in a different way. Components for these technologies aren’t industry specific, except for the actual solar thermal modules and geothermal heat pump, but these are easy to manufacture and thus there are many manufacturers. For the solar PV industry, all main components are specialized: modules, inverters and racking. Thus, equipment costs tend to make up a larger percentage of the installed costs. However, this is declining as economies of scale are reached on the manufacturing side of the business.

20-Year IRR with Current Incentives and Assumptions

This graph shows what the 20-year IRR of these different projects is with our given assumptions. Yes, the IRR of solar PV is getting much lower as installed costs drop and property owners see it as low risk, but also because Massachusetts SREC prices are declining. Geothermal is around 13 percent and solar thermal is around 12 percent.

20-Year IRR of All Technologies Received SRECs

This graph is answering a question I frequently hear: If geothermal is so amazing how come more people aren’t doing it? My answer is simple: If geothermal received the same REC prices as solar PV, no one would be using oil, geothermal would just be cheaper. So, if we assume that geothermal and solar thermal get paid $200/MWh for 10 years based on their output, their IRRs skyrocket to 30 percent.

Lessons earned and what implication does this have for policy in New England?

There are a few lessons we can learn from this analysis.

First, renewable thermal technologies can provide as good or better returns than solar PV technologies for property owners.

Second, renewable thermal technologies need more policy support, but they do not need as much support as solar PV. As you can see, a 30 percent IRR is too high. This is good for policy makers because it means that the cost of deploying renewable thermal technology will be CHEAPER than deploying solar PV. Renewable thermal technologies are cheaper and produce more valuable energy per kW installed, so more of the returns can come from displacing fuel than from a subsidy.

Third, renewable thermal technologies create more construction jobs per kW installed than solar PV.

Fourth, if we’re serious about incentives for renewable thermal technologies, we must use production-based incentives. Production-based incentives maintain quality control throughout the entire process: manufacturing, design and installation. A huge lesson learned in the solar PV industry is that incentives based on installed costs have huge flaws (installing solar PV projects in the shade is one example). Those modules on the left in the photo below will still receive a rebate even though they won’t produce must power.

Fifth, if any policy makers reading this happen to live in New England, my message to you is simple:  If you’re bullish on the solar PV industry and believe that it’s a wise investment in terms of job creation, reducing emissions and saving property owners money, you should look into renewable thermal technologies as the next area of rapid growth. If you’re looking for the next technology that is going to create a huge number of jobs in your state and save a massive amount of money, you must look at renewable thermal technologies.

If you want to chat, I’d be happy to. Here’s my contact information: cwilliams@heatspring.com, 800-393-2044 ex. 33.


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The Most Complete List of Commercial Geothermal Cost Data

This is a list of the best resources I’ve been able to find for commercial and public geothermal projects. We need to be creating more case studies in order to reduce risk for property owners. By showing property owners, specifically large property owners how many systems have been put in, it will be easier to sell the technology.

Lately, I’ve been searching for geothermal case studies for commercial and public projects. I’ve searched the internet and connected with all of our instructors and friends to try and find the best data I can. The trick is that I’m really not interested in the technical details of the projects, I want to be able to dig deep into the economics of the projects.

Here is the best information I’ve been able to find. I’ll be adding to this list as I find more resources and I’ll be working on some analysis in the future.

1. Dr. Steve Kavanaugh has a very in depth spread sheet available on his website that was last updated in September 2011. You can see a screen shot below. You can download the excel spreadsheet here.

2. Dr. Kavanaugh has also published some amazing articles on ASHRAE on long term geothermal heat pump performance with articles on ground loops performance, installation costs, etc. The below screen shot is from his article on geothermal installation costs for public and commercial applications. You can see all of Dr. Kavanaughs’ articles here. 

3. Geoexchange case studies. Geoexchange has a body of commercial case studies. The majority of these are written more then a decade ago. However, they’re still very useful and well written.

4. MEP Associates has some basic data on the large university geothermal projects that they have engineered. You can read more about their projects here. 

5. Project Specific Case Studies. Below some of the project specific case studies I’ve been able to find in my search.

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New England Geothermal Policy Update, Review, and Next Steps: Massachusetts

This is the first piece on geothermal lobbying efforts that I’m completing in addition to other industry communications and research efforts. In the next few weeks, I’ll be publishing information on the current state of policy and next steps in Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut and New York as well.

The goal of outling the current policy and legislative space in Massachusetts has a few very specific goals.

  • We are an industry with a limited amount of time and money (at the moment) but a HUGE amount of potential. Thus, we need to be razor sharp about where we apply our efforts.  This cannot be another full time job for anyone. However, we need to make ourselves a seat at the table. I think we can do this by creating the right relationships and being useful.
  • Because we have a limited amount of resources, providing a simple, clear and straightforward overview of what is happening in each state will allow us to use our resources in the most effective manner.
  • This is a living document that will be used to keep track of pieces of legislation that are being created, hearings beings had, or bills that have been passed that impact our industry. We’ll use it to keep track of key legislatures and other stakeholders that can be our an ally. We’ll look for allys that agree and have goals that overlap with geothermal: Geothermal provides the lowest cost of thermal energy, it directly replaces heating oil, it can be installed FAST, it creates 100% local jobs across the whole supply chain, and eliminates air and water pollutions issues associated with burning oil.
  • We’ll use it to understand which other organizations we need to create relationships with in order to impact the policy that is being created that will affect geothermal.
  • The process also outlines next steps for our industry in Massachusetts.
  • As always, if I missed anything, or you’d like to add something in terms of bills, studies, legislatures, or other stakeholders please email or call me cwilliams@heatspring.com, 917 767 8204.
  • Also, if you’re commissioning a large residential or commercial geothermal project in one of these district PLEASE LET ME KNOW, so we can invite a Senator who represents the district where the job is happening and create a press opportunity to show them that the technology is being used, it’s creating local jobs, and saving property owners tons of money. These are the district we’re focusing on, see more information on this below.
  • 1st Plymouth and Bristol District
  • Berkshire, Hampshire and Franklin District
  • Middlesex and Worcester


  • SB2395 – Passed
  • Citation for SB2395: http://www.malegislature.gov/Bills/187/Senate/S02395
  • Section 46 is most critical to us with underlined sections that are more critical:
  • SECTION 46. The executive office of energy and environmental affairs, in consultation with the department of energy resources, shall study whether any alternative energy development, as defined in section 3 of chapter 25A of the General Laws, that generates useful thermal energy shall be added to the list of alternative energy generating sources that may be used to meet the commonwealth’s energy portfolio standard for all retail electricity suppliers selling electricity to end-use customers in the commonwealth under section 11F½ of said chapter 25A. For purposes of this study, “useful thermal energy”, shall mean energy in the form of direct heat, steam, hot water or other thermal form that is used in production and beneficial measures for heating, cooling, humidity control, process use or other valid thermal end use energy requirements and for which fuel or electricity would otherwise be consumed. The executive office of energy and environmental affairs shall submit a report of its findings not later than January 1, 2013 to the clerks of the house of representatives and the senate who shall forward a copy of the report to the joint committee on telecommunications, utilities and energy.
  • SB2768 – Green Communities in 2008 – This is an old bill, but it will be key to understand who support it because they will likely have open ears to ground source heat pumps.

What SB 2395 bill says, in a nutshell

  • SB 2395 says that Massachusetts DOER will do a renewable thermal study and they will send results to energy committee by January 1, 2013. This means that the geothermal industry needs to establish relationships and get involved with both the DOER and the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utility, and Energy. Our primary goal right now is simply exploratory and to create relationships with both those organizations.
  • When reaching out it’s key that we understand the impact that the language around “retail electricity suppliers” will have around the analysis and their understanding of geothermal, as the technology largest benefit in the Northeast is replacing fossil fuel use for space heating and shaving peak cooling demand. What this means is that from the government’s perspective, they may only be interested in the technology for shaving peak demand from cooling, even though it has a huge heating benefit. Or, they might just be interested in it’s benefits for replacing oil use for heating.
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Keeping Vermont on the Cutting Edge of Clean Energy and How You Can Get Involved

Vermont has long been on the cutting edge of renewable energy and energy efficiency. They like to get stuff done, from solar permitting to efficiency and biomass. Two weeks ago, I spoke with executive director of Renewable Energy Vermont, Gabrielle Stebbins to learn a little more about the current state of the industry, and where private companies can get involved to help further develop the industry.

What would you say is the current state of the renewable energy industry in Vermont?

Vermonters strongly support renewables and a clean energy economy, as exemplified in many of the “firsts” led by the state: the first efficiency utility, the first legislated Feed-in-Tariff, the first solar registration (as opposed to permitting) process for solar projects 10 kW and below, and a net-metering program that has continually evolved and improved over the years.

With all this good news from Vermont, it must be stated that Vermont is small, and therefore when federal policies and subsidies and incentives are decreased for renewables, the funding opportunities for Vermont to move forward more quickly, become constrained.

What policies are driving clean energy adoption in the state?

See above. Feed in Tariff, net-metering, strong cow-power program, majority of utilities supportive of renewables, strong public support, Comprehensive Energy Plan with goal of 90% of ALL energy being supplied by renewables by 2050, solar registration process, etc.

What technologies are leading and which ones are lagging? Why

Solar pv and wind have been leading. wind now has some challenges due to the PTC uncertainty and that impacting larger, national industry growth that trickles into Vermont. Bioenergy technologies vary widely. Many homes are heated with cord wood – so in a way Vermont has always been at the forefront of biomass if one considers cord wood. Pellets are becoming more widely available and there is growing interest. Solar hot water also has strong market interest. Biofuels are used by many farmers on-farm, but has not taken off. Farm methane has been supported for many years through state policy and a Vermont public interest in supporting our farmers. Geothermal varies– there are many installations, but generally the industry has not come together as a unified force and therefore market growth has not been as advanced as wind and solar. Retrofitting existing hydro has been a slow, long process due to the extensive FERC permitting – a new law passed this year that allows for a pilot program of a few projects going through state review PRIOR to FERC review, may help to identify good opportunities for retrofits at sites that environmental regulators and project proponents can work together on to generate power. So this could become a new opportunity for many towns that own old dams, etc., depending on the location along the river system and ecological impacts, the state of the dam and how much rebuilding is required, and the cost-benefits of the project.

The 2012 year we witnessed a lot of legal developments in Vermont assisting renewable energy

2012 Legislative Results: Thank you to all the REV members that weighed in and got involved this Legislative Session. Countless members (and associated businesses) testified, provided data analysis and policy support, wrote to and called their Elected Officials, helped fund the Legislative effort and finally, attended bill signings, REV’s press conference and REV’s “day at the Statehouse”.  All of these efforts really did (and does) make a difference.  The following bills have been signed into law, or should be in the next few days:

House Bill 475: The net-metering bill raises the solar net metering registration capacity from 5 kW to 10 kW, addresses several technical fixes with regards to net-metering, and also defines solar Standard Offer projects based on inverter capacity. Click here to read this bill.

House Bill 468/ Senate Bill 214: The Renewable Portfolio Standard and Standard Offer Bill became S. 214, a bill that no longer includes an RPS, but does increase the Standard Offer Program to a total of 127.5 MW over the next 10 years. It includes several studies, including a report regarding how to move Vermont towards comprehensive energy planning via a Total Energy Standard (includes thermal, transportation and power mandates). The bill also sets a new policy directive to utilize distributed generation as a means to address transmission and distribution constraints, and peak load issues. Click here to read this bill.

House Bill 782:  This tax bill should ensure the Clean Energy Development Fund receives approximately $3 million/year through a generation tax on Vermont Yankee.  Estimated availability is Fall 2012, which does not necessarily prevent a funding gap that may occur prior to Yankee’s payment in 2013.  It will also require that the renewable energy community and REV go to the bat annually to ensure this funding is appropriated from the General Fund to the CEDF, as opposed to other competing needs.

House Bill 679: This tax bill ensures all solar projects 10 kW and smaller are tax exempt, for solar projects larger than 10 kW it requires a $4/kW annual state property tax, and brings wind projects 1 – 5 MW in size into the same tax rate as projects wind projects 5 MW and larger. Click here to read this bill.

Senate Bill 148: A hydro bill that allows for preliminary reviews regarding retrofitting existing hydro sites, without going through an expensive FERC process first. Click here to read this bill.

Senate Bill 237: The Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont is now tasked with developing a genuine progress indicator (GPI) to be used by the state of Vermont along with the state’s gross domestic product when assessing the overall economic health of the state.  A GPI broadens the GDP economic analysis to include not just economic impact, but also environmental and social impacts resulting from economic activity. This is important because it means our economic analyses may start to include the upsides of clean energy – a cleaner environment, better air and water quality and resulting human health impacts, etc. Click here to read this bill.

Are there any specific pieces of legislation that are lacking, that you’re pushing for in Vermont? How, specifically, can private companies help push this legislation forward?

Ideally, we need to move towards a place where an increase in electricity generated by renewables is part of the energy plan. Our buildings need to be made as efficient as possible, making it more easily feasible for renewables to heat them, and to enable electric vehicles to move into Vermont and address the challenges that our rural state face – with a considerable amount of oil and money spent on transportation.

The RPS did not pass this year, but this allows for the opportunity that in a next round, we have a Total Energy Standard – one that addresses heating/cooling, transportation and power needs.



If you do business in Vermont, there’s a number of things you can do to help develop the renewable energy industry in Vermont.

  1. Keep up to date and help with legislative action. Right now there is nothing press because the Vermont legislature is not in session, but this is the best place to keep up to date with –> http://www.revermont.org/main/about-us/policy-and-advocacy/
  2. Join Renewable Energy Vermont –> http://www.revermont.org/main/join-rev/
  3. Attend REV’s yearly conference: http://www.revermont.org/main/events/conferences/
  4.  Join the Friends of Vermont Wind at www.windworksvt.org . This group can write letters to the editor, get facts from the wind worksite website about how wind energy works, etc. Ideally, REV hopes to develop a large enough group of players that we can give the people who support wind energy (more than 70% in VT) enough support so that they will speak up at public meetings when others are shouting against wind energy….but that will take time to develop.
  5. Subscribe to the newsletter. If you you want to watch what is happening an get involved at a later date, the newsletter is the best way to keep in touch http://www.revermont.org/main/join-rev/


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[Free Download] Geothermal Phone Script For Leads

Performing a site visit is expensive. The time and travel need to perform the actual site visits, and the time needed to crunch the numbers to create a proposal is extensive.

Thus, it should be reserved for only the most promising clients. Standardizing how you handle inbound calls into not qualified, qualified, and extremely hot leads is key to maximizing profitability and spending time and resource correctly.

Harold at 360Chestnut put together a cool and useful tool that geothermal contractors can start using to screen inbound calls. This will be most useful if you’re larger then a one man band and have other people answering the phone for you.

The goal is to make sure that you only go out to site visits that look the most promising.

The geothermal phone script will go nicely with the Geothermal Site Visit Checklist

Download the Geothermal Phone Script

Give your basic info below to download the script
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[Interview] Learnings from Ball State and the Largest Geothermal Project and What It means for Selling District Heating Geothermal

A few months ago, I heard about the largest geothermal heat pump installation was breaking ground at Ball State University. Clearly, this is amazing project that could change the whole industry. Also, I always noticed PR for huge solar PV projects and knew that we needed to get out the world about ground source. So, I wrote an article in Climate Progress about the project.

Jo Ann Gora, the president of Ball State University, reached out to Joe Romm, the editor of Climate Progress to thank him for the piece and he forward it to me.

I reached out Ms. Gora wanting to understand more intimately how the decisions was made within Ball State to under take such a large project that a huge accomplishment on so many levels. I wanted to learn a few things

  1.  I wanted to understand their buying process and internal decision making. As an industry, if we can start to understand how large institutions, like Ball State, invest ~60 million dollars into geothermal, we’ll be able to sell more projects.
  2. I wanted to understand if there were any issues that almost killed the project within Ball State.
  3. Lastly, I wanted to learn what they learned about the technology and if there were any technical bottlenecks that almost killed the project.

I spoke with Ms. Gora for about 20 minutes, I also spoke with Jim Lowe who is the Director of Enginneering, Construction and Operations at Ball State.

Here’s my conversation with Ms. Gora

Q: What was the inspiration behind the project? Was someone pushing it within the university or was it advised to your by an outside engineering firm?

A: It’s a really great story. In December of 2005, our board approved the purchased of boiler equipment and to sell bonds to finance the project. So, we were going with a traditional system and we had received authority to release bonds to replace our existing equipment.

We were going down this route and what we discovered, when we completed the sale of the bond, 2 years later, is that prices for the original equipment had gone through the roof. We no longer had enough money. Also, due to the size of the project, we were going to have to buy the parts from outside the US. We were getting a hard time getting bids and we didn’t think we could get a competitive price. So, it forced us to ask ourselves if there was alternative and better way.

We’re a university and we figured we’re going to be around for another 100 years, so we started talking to a lot of people about alternatives, something that would be really sustainable.

Being aware that fuel prices are volatile, that the push for energy efficiency was really, and not liking the idea of spending the money outside of the US, we started asking ourselves internally if there is a better way.

We turned to our Senator, and he arranged a call with NREL and Oakridge Laboratory and they put us in touch with top geothermal experts. They told us that only recently had the technology matured to a point where you could heat and cooling many buildings, and not just one.

Continue reading

Posted in Geothermal and Solar Design and Installation Tips, Geothermal Heat Pumps, Solar and Geothermal Sales and Marketing Tips | Tagged , , , | Comments Off

Natural Gas Prices Skyrocket 70%, Renewable Energy Prices Stay the Same

If you ever thought that natural gas prices were going to stay low for the next 20 years, one could argue, you’re not very smart. If there is one thing we know about fossil fuel prices and that’s that they are extremely volatile. If there’s one thing we know about renewable prices, it’s that they stay constant.

Numerous data coming out all point to increase prices, if you have something that contradicts this, please send it to me at cwilliams@heatspring.com

Few Trends That All the Resources Are Seeing

  • NG is used for fluctuating and peak electric demand, AC demand is up this summer
  • Coal to NG retrofits
  • Fortune 500 companies switching light trucks to NG
  • LNG to Europe. The industry really wants to ship gas to Europe, which will increase prices here.
  • Increased EPA scrutiny and oversight of fracking
  • Transmission bottlenecks, especially getting into Henry Hub and the Northeast
  • US Gas Rig count is down to 518, the lowest since 1998

Here’s a few lessons

  • NG prices will always be volatile and IMPOSSIBLE TO PREDICT
  • Renewables prices ARE NOT volatile and they can be predicted. This has a huge value in itself, but in order to realize that value, you must be good at selling and understanding your customers.
  • Focus on institutions with a LONG TERM FOCUS for both solar thermal and geothermal, these organizations are the best to realize that even a small increases in natural gas prices have a huge impact over the long run. Even NG at $1.40 per delivered therm (only a 40% increase from the lowest lows) can result in a 10% IRR over 20 years in most applications. That’s a 10% riskless return.
  • If you’re curious how changes in natural gas prices can change the IRRs of solar thermal or geothermal projects, check out our Finance 101 for Geothermal and Finance 101 for Solar Thermal walkthroughs.
Posted in Clean Energy Policu, Geothermal Heat Pumps, Solar Thermal, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

The Coolest, Most Bad%ss, Great Geothermal Marketing Video Ever Made

Thanks to Energy Smart Alternatives for creating this video and posting it on twitter, where I found it, while I was stalking you.

To give credit where credit is due, Love’s Geothermal down in Maryland also has an amazing “story of a geothermal installation” and some great videos of full installations, like this one below.

If you have any detailed project information like the above, or a case study like material with before and after costs and customers testimonials, feel free to send me them at cwilliams@heatspring.com

Posted in Geothermal Heat Pumps, Solar and Geothermal Sales and Marketing Tips | Tagged , | Leave a comment

“What’s the Most Efficient?” Geo VS Solar Thermal VS Solar PV

 I’m doing some sales consulting work in NYC, and there’s one question I’m getting a lot from property owners: “What is the most efficient renewable energy technology?”

In the city, they are mainly speaking of solar PV vs solar thermal, because generally there’s not enough room for geothermal in the city. However, for fun, I’ll expand it and include geothermal.

The answer is, of course, it depends on how you’re defining efficient.

  1.  Which technology produces the most energy in the least amount of area
  2. Which technology produces the most valuable energy
  3. Which technology has the best financial return. Again, however you’re defining return.
There are two ways that I’m going to frame the discussion to search for an answer, or a methodology for finding an answer: 
  1.  Efficiency of the technology (is this a good design for this specific application)
  2. Efficiency of cash, which takes into consideration the site characteristics and policy (is this a good investment?)

As always, it’s easiest to see this when we look at a few examples, being clear to highlight when and where the examples might be different in the real world and how said sensitivity might impact our results.

1. Technology Efficiency. Right now, let’s just look at GROSS INSTALLED Costs and raw energy production. 

Here’s what I’m going to calculate: Gross Installed cost / Net energy produced in year 1 (energy produced / energy used)

Again, I’ll keep it in residential for simplicity. And I’ll focus on Boston because I’m most familiar with the solar resource available and the average heating degree days needed when understanding geothermal production.

Our example home will be:

  • 1500 square feet
  • Average home shell construction.
  • South Facing roof, no shading, 10 pitch, that is 60 feet by 12 feet.

Solar PV: $25,000 /  6,843 kWH produced per year = 3.65, which means that you must invest 3.65 dollars in year 1 to get 1 kWh of production

  • 5kw DC Installed @ $5.00/watt  = $25,000
  • Avg Insolution = 5 hours of full sunlight per day.
  • We’ll derate from DC to AC is .75, which is extremely conservative.
  • AC Production = 3.75 AC output
  • 3.75 X 5 hours per day = 18.75 kWh production per day on average.
  • 18.75 X 365 = 6,843 kWH produced per year

$25,000 /  6,843 kWH produced per year = 3.65, which means that you must invest 3.65 dollars in year 1 to get 1 kWh of production

Solar Thermal: $8,000 / 4,982kWh = 1.6. For every $1.6 dollars invested you get 1kWh of production.

  • 3 to 4 family home
  • Gross Installed Costs for a simple drawback system by a well trained crew is ~$8k
  • Each Module will likely produce around 85 therms per year, totally 170 therms per year
  • 170 therms is 17,000,000 BTUs / 3,412 = 4,982 kWH equivalent.
  • $8,000 / 4,982kWh = 1.6
  • For every $1.6 dollars invested you get 1kWh of production.

Note: For solar thermal, unlike solar PV, production of solar energy and usage of that energy doesn’t necessarily match. For this example, I’ll assume it does.

Geothermal: $27,000 / 13,478 kWh equivalent = 2. You must invest $2 in year 1 to get 1kWh of energy production.

  • We’ll assume the heat pump is only heating, to make the calculation more simple and keeping in mind that our ratio of dollars invested to energy produced will be a little larger, if we considered cooling.
  • 63 MBTU average heating load
  • Avg COP of 3.75 (this is important, because lower efficiency will increase the tonnage needed for the same btu’s delivered, all else equal)
  • 3 Ton system
  • 9k ton X 3 tons = 27k
  • Energy Produced = 63 M BTU –> Let’s convert BTU to kWh equivalant
  • 63 M BTU = 18,463 kWH (Remember that 1kWh = 3,412 BTUs. Thus long calc is 63MBTU = 630 Therms (10 therms = 1MMBTU) 630 therms = 63,000,000 BTUS divide by 3,412 = 18,464)
  • Many will point out that geothermal uses energy (in pumps and fans) to produce more energy, which is true. However, we want to find out what EXTRA energy that was created by the system, this is the renewable part. With an average COP of 3.75 it means that 3.75 units of energy was created for every equivalivent energy put into the system.
  • 3.75 means we need to reduce the energy produced by 26.66% (1 / 3.75) to find the amount that was produced by the system.
  • 18,464 X 73% = 13,478 kWh equivalent produced
  • 27k installed costs gross / 13,478 kWh = 2 in equivalent energy produced. Which means, that for you must invest $2 in year 1 to get 1kWh of energy

Here is our conclusion about gross installed costs and energy produced: 

  • Solar PV: $25,000 /  6,843 kWH
  • Solar Thermal: 8,000k / 4,982 kWh
  • Geothermal: 27k installed costs gross / 13,478 kWh

A few things to note about the sample examples

  • PV: $5 a watt is average and there are much higher installed costs.
  • Thermal – Production of modules and usage don’t necessarily match. Also, assumptions around water usage are not accurate. ~8k is also for a great site and a well trained crew. It’s common to see $10k+ projects.
  • Geothermal – Only assumed it was heating. Assuming 72 set point and 62MMBTU needed to heat the home. 3.75 COP also impact the energy produced from that invested cash. Higher COP = greater output, all else equal, per dollar invested.
  • As we’ll discuss in section 3, site characteristics can change the analysis of any one of these by making some technologies, cheaper or non-available in certain areas.
Posted in Geothermal and Solar Design and Installation Tips, Geothermal Heat Pumps, Solar Photovoltaics, Solar Thermal | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Closed-Loop Geothermal Dominates the Existing Geo Market

Source: GSPsRUS Economic Survey - January 2012

What type of ground heat exchanger is the best?  It depends on who you ask.  What type of ground heat exchanger is most common?  Closed-Loop.  The recent GSPsRUS survey has provided the industry some useful data to support what people in the industry have known for a long time.

We get questions about this all the time and wanted to share the data.  I think knowing these numbers makes it easier to communicate and sell the technology.  As an industry it’s important to tell a cohesive story – whether to a customer, a legislator, or a product development staff.

I’m planning to break out learnings from the report over the coming weeks in an attempt to help the data sink in.  Thanks again to the folks at GSPsRUS for their effort to collect and share the data.

Survey responses were received from geothermal installers in 35 states.

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