Tech giants like Apple and Google have been change agents in the tech realm, but they now appear to be moving well beyond their original niches.
From the buzz on websites, Apple appears to be moving big time into self-driving automobiles, which would be a huge game-changer in our lifestyle. Google has cast its eyes beyond being a search engine to a wide range of challenges like ending dependence on fossil fuels. This is a pleasant change from the anti-climate change policy of our current American president.
One morning in October, I woke up to see my neighbor’s front lawn filled with strange-looking trucks, equipment and uniformed workers. Our front lawns are not that large, only about 50 feet wide. I couldn’t image what was going on, until my neighbors told me they were installing a geothermal heating and cooling system that included a 400-foot well.
I had imagined the notion of geothermal energy, but had never seen it installed or knew of a home that was heated and cooled using geothermal energy. Strangely enough, thanks in part to Google.org, a public-spirited division of Google.com designed to address “climate change, poverty and emerging disease,” Google is focusing on drilling for renewable energy — and lots of it — right beneath our feet. Google is investing an arguably modest sum of $10 million on geothermal energy, but seems to be making a difference.
Geothermal technology is taking root in the Hudson Valley and Capital Region. Dandelion Energy Inc, a geothermal startup created at the research and development lab of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is partnering with Rhinebeck-based Hudson Solar, with the intent of servicing homes with renewable energy all the way from Dutchess and Ulster counties to Saratoga County. It has already scheduled installations of geothermal technology throughout the region.
Aztech Geothermal, another partner with Dandelion, has already participated in installing approximately 300 geothermal systems in the Capital Region. It primarily uses existing ductwork. Aztech Geothermal’s president, John Ciovacco, is looking forward to an “all-in effort to promote the ‘net zero’ concept of local homes powered completely by renewable energy.”
Ciovacco says approximately 2.5 million homes across New York state, including my home, do not have access to natural gas, and therefore, heat with oil, propane or electric. He sees geothermal as a viable option for us.
Water underground in New York state generally conforms to our average air temperature of 52 degrees. Pipes in the ground circulate a water solution and carry energy to a heat pump in the winter for heating and remove heat from a building into the ground in the summer. Forced-air or low-temperature hydronic systems distribute geothermal heating and air conditioning. Most systems use electric heat pumps capable of increasing the ground’s thermal energy in the winter for heat and concentrating and depositing the building’s thermal energy into the relatively cool ground in the summer for air conditioning.
At this time, geothermal energy is a bargain. Homeowners have an option of paying $20,000 up front with no subsequent costs or $150 per month over 20 years for installation of geothermal. Dandelion is making initial contact with homeowners and Aztech performs inspections and installation. These two companies are seeking to rapidly expand our regional market for geothermal power.
Dandelion states it “is making geothermal heating and cooling affordable by introducing a number of process and technological innovations, including analytics-based marketing, fixed-system pricing, a low monthly payment option and innovative drilling method.”
So don’t be surprised if you see your neighbor harnessing the natural energy capabilities of the Earth itself to keep warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
Paul M. Bray’s email is email@example.com.