Geothermal heat pumps, geothermal, ground-source heat pumps, ground-coupled heat pumps, GHP, GSHP, GeoExchange, Closed Loop, Open Loop, Direct Exchange, Standing Column Well

“How To Make Money in Renewable Energy” Meet-Up at the 2012 IGSHPA Conference

Going to the IGSHPA conference in Indy?  If so, let us buy you a drink.  HeatSpring Learning Institute, GeoConnections, and ClimateMaster are hosting a meet-up for business owners in town for the IGSHPA Conference.

Tuesday October 2nd – 7-9pm – Cost: Free

Ram Restaurant & Big Horn Brewery
140 South Illinois Street
Indianapolis, IN 46225


This event will have […]

[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

 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.
I wanted to understand if there were any issues that almost killed the project within Ball State.
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.


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 […]

July 18th, 2012|Categories: Geothermal Heat Pumps, Solar Sales & Marketing|Tags: , |

The Future of Comfort. How the World Cup Might Help Your Help Your HVAC Business.

How did Qatar win their bid to host the 2022 World Cup?  In this video, Wolfgang Kessling explains how his team designed a comfort strategy that helped make it happen.  Yes, comfort.

Here’s why I wanted to share this video with HeatSpring readers:

Comfort is a word I hear HVAC and geothermal contractors use all the time, but […]

“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.

 Which technology produces the most energy in the least amount of area
Which technology produces the most valuable energy
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: 

 Efficiency of the technology (is this a good design for this specific application)
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.