Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Sixth Annual New York Geothermal Conference

Dandelion geothermal installation. Photo courtesy of Dandelion.

George Harvey

We got word from Joanne Coons and Michael Bailey about a conference that took place in New York State, over two days starting April 10. The Sixth Annual New York Geothermal (NY GEO) Conference, was held at the Rivers Casino and Resort in Schenectady.

Geothermal heat pumps (GHP) may already provide the most practical approach to heating and cooling for homes and businesses in much of the United States. Air-source heat pumps (ASHP) are quite a bit less expensive up front, and though they will often beat any combustion heating system for efficiency, they are clearly not as inexpensive as GHP to run. Like wind power, solar photovoltaics (PV), and storage batteries, heat pumps have been on a steeply downward price trajectory ever since they first appeared on the market.

Joanne Coons said the NY GEO conference was attended by 380 people. She said that the keynote dinner speaker’s address, given by John Rhodes, the Chairman of the New York Public Service Commission, was particularly interesting, because he had attended and spoken at earlier NY GEO conferences.

In his address, Rhodes emphasized the importance of competitiveness. Renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, batteries, and efficiency can all be seen as strong competitors for fossil fuels. This means electrification is the most powerful route toward use of clean technologies.

Both GHP and ASHP have powerful competitive edges. They are less expensive to run than systems fueled by oil or propane. With availability of financing offers, they can even be less expensive for homeowners to install. They are clearly less expensive than natural gas for anyone who does not have easy access to a natural gas lines.

Rhodes emphasized the competitive edge of heat pumps, suggesting utilities and other businesses that can provide them should work to remove any barriers to financing. Rhodes said, “Utilities should make good smart investments that includes heat pumps.” Bailey put a challenge to the heat pump industry to “collectively rise to the occasion,” so New York could meet its goal of getting to 70% reliance on fossil fuels by 2030.

The biggest barrier to advancing GHP is that the industry is still in early stages of growth. As we move into the future, we can expect to see GHP follow the same sort of downward cost pressure as solar PVs, wind power, and batteries. While GHP may not decline as fast as solar power, it is already positioned to compete with fossil fuels. With time, in which the price of ASHP and GHP can reasonably be expected to fall, it is very likely that heat pumps will edge out fossil fuels altogether, simply because of their cost.

Because GHP technology is young and they make it easier to get New York off of dependence on fossil fuels, the Public Service Commission has authorized rebates to promote growth of the industry. They hope to increase installation rates and demonstrate the advantages of geothermal heat pumps to increase market acceptance.

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