HeatSpring instructor Ryan Carda doesn’t like to brag about the positive impact he’s had on the geothermal industry.
But Brian Hayden, co-founder of HeatSpring, is happy to sing Carda’s praise.
“Ryan is the ultimate teacher because he’s so smart and so patient. Nobody is more deserving of success. He helped the geothermal industry association – IGSHPA – rise from the ashes after it almost died,” says Hayden. Carda’s company, Geo-Connections, was purchased by Dandelion, a leader in the industry that recently raised $30 million in Series B funding.
Recruited to Write Installation Manual
In 2004, Carda, a mechanical engineer, entered the geothermal industry along with his mentor, Chuck Remund, installing systems in South Dakota. At the time, he was an undergraduate student at South Dakota State University. The pair launched Geo-Connections in 2006.
Soon, IGSHPA recruited the duo to write a geothermal heat pump installation manual, a years-long project.
“When we wrote it, we wanted people to fully understand the process of designing and installing systems and running calculations. We developed a spreadsheet at the same time so that people who were using the new methods in the manual wouldn’t have to do calculations by hand,” says Carda.
With that first in the industry, Carda and Remund–also a HeatSpring instructor— weren’t finished transforming the geothermal business. Next they created web based software for performing calculations. The web based software allowed users to work from any computer.
Creating “Unheard of” Software
“This was unheard of in the industry, and it turned out to be a big deal for us,” Carda says. “That project opened up a lot of opportunities; we got involved in training and software development.” And that work provided the opportunity to become part of Dandelion.
Carda also worked with a group that launched a conversation about moving IGSHPA out of Oklahoma State University, creating its own entity. The group gathered feedback from members about what an ideal trade association would look like and made a presentation to IGSHPA’s board of directors and advisory committee about a possible move. At the time, it was an unpopular opinion.
“The volunteer-run industry association had been in a state of decline for five years; membership and training were shrinking,” Carda says.
Now the industry association is being rebuilt, continuing to create standards and providing training that helps people gain certification in the industry. “The current board of directors is doing a really great job,” says Carda.
Geothermal Industry Gains Momentum
“It’s a strong industry association that will help the industry gain momentum,” adds Carda.
The geothermal industry is indeed growing, due in part to efforts by Dandelion, which in 2018 purchased Carda’s company, Geo-Connections. In addition, the focus on weaning the U.S. off fossil fuels is helping the industry gather steam, says Carda.
Dandelion has helped raise awareness about geothermal heat pumps, he says.
Dandelion Showcases the Benefits of Geothermal
“Before Dandelion, a lot of people in the industry tried to explain how geothermal works and people got stuck in the details. The average person didn’t understand,” he says.
In addition, Dandelion has followed the solar industry’s example and made purchasing geothermal heat pumps easier. New options include no-money down financing.
“We have lined it up so it’s easy to say yes. We have increased the level of awareness, letting people know that you can use geothermal heat pumps in any home, in any part of the country. There’s a lot of momentum now.”
The forward movement is driven in part by state policy goals. New York State, for example, was the first to offer rebates for geothermal heat pumps. Also available to buyers is the federal 26% investment tax credit. And some utilities now offer incentives for geothermal heat pumps.
Finding Workers to Meet the Growing Industry’s Needs
As the industry continues to grow, the biggest challenge will be training people to fulfill the demand for geothermal systems, says Carda.
“The biggest challenge is workforce development. That’s why companies like Heatspring are so important,” he says.