(Screen shot of the Ground Energy Support Geothermal Monitoring dashboard)

If you’re serious about geothermal, you need to be monitoring your projects in real time. Click here to buy a Ground Energy Support monitoring package. Note, I advise Ground Energy Support.

This guest post was written by Matt Davis. Matt is on the ASTM thermal standards committee and is an expert at geothermal monitoring. His company, Ground Energy Support has logged more than 150,000 hours in real time data.

Real time geothermal heat pump monitoring is about to the change the geothermal industry and in 5 years it will become standard practice in competitive markets like New England and the mid-Atlantic. The best 50% of firms will double their businesses and the bottom 50% of firms will stop installing geothermal because they won’t be able to compete. This is great news for the industry and I’m on a personal mission to make this happen as fast as possible. If your business is in the top 50% of geothermal firms and you design and install high quality geothermal systems, you should quickly get familiar with real time monitoring because it will allow you to increase your profit on jobs and increase your sales. Two months ago, I went to an LI Geo meeting, pitched one of the contractors on using real time monitoring with a performance based contract, and he responded, “that’s exactly what I need, I’m not going to lose a $45,000 geothermal job to a competitor for an $800 piece of equipment.” If you’re not in the top 50%, watch out 😉

It will make your business more profitable in a few ways: 1) Increased customer satisfaction. 2) Work into a service agreement so that each sale brings in recurring revenue. 3) Increase sales by a) using other projects to show a potential clients during the sales process and b) offering a performance based contract to win any and all bids from competing geothermal companies that do not feel confident enough the in quality of their design and installation to GUARANTEE its performance.

To get familiar with real time geothermal technology, how it works, the difference between monitoring, measuring and metering, download “The Current State of Geothermal Monitoring”, published by Ground Energy Support and HeatSpring. I’m an advisor to Ground Energy Support.

Here’s what the Geothermal Monitoring Whitepaper will address

The difference between geothermal monitoring, measuring, and metering
Data collection
Calculation of the geoexchange with the ground loop
Modeling with system specifications
Deciding on the best measurement method based on goals, budget and accuracy requirements
Data analysis. How to interpret the data
Most common system performance issues with the geothermal heat pump operation, design and source side issues

There are several trends that will make real time monitoring standard practice within 5 years.

Historical precedence with the solar PV industry.
Public policy is pushing towards performance based incentives.
Monitoring addresses and solves HUGE problems that our industry faces
Monitoring also addresses the top issues that homeowners have when looking to purchase geothermal and AFTER they have purchased a product. Addressing these issues will allow you to 1) increase sales by addressing client concerns and 2) increase referral business by increasing customer satisfaction.
Monitoring can be added to your existing O+M contracts
Use monitoring to structure a performance based contract.

Now, I’ll discuss each of these items in more depth.

1. Historical precedence in the solar PV industry

In the early 2000s very few solar PV projects in California had monitoring on them. Why? The technology was too expensive, and it was not required because the majority of state incentives were based on cash rebates. Forward that to today, well over 95% of residential projects in California are monitored. Why? First, the incentives are based on the performance of the system, so they must be monitored. Second, financers are guaranteeing production amounts which must be proven with monitoring. This will be happening in the geothermal industry.

2. Public policy is pushing towards performance based incentives

Even if you don’t want to install real time monitoring, you may not have a choice, as more and more states are looking at production based incentives for renewable thermal technologies.

New Hampshire is leading the country in this effort and is currently working on establishing the rules and guidelines for implementing a law in 2013 that was passed in early 2012. You can read more about the New Hampshire program here.

State by State Comparison of Geothermal Heat Pump Legislation
US States Heating up to Renewable Thermal Heating and Cooling

Maryland has passed some legislation, and Massachusetts is looking to address renewable thermal technologies as well as Vermont. For Massachusetts and Vermont, it’s currently unclear how they will incent renewable thermal technologies, however they incentivize solar pv and wind on a production level, so my guess is that they’re pushing this way with renewable thermal technologies as well.