Category Archives: renewable energy

Go Geo and Make a Difference In Climate Change!

The Internet is abuzz with the news. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a U.N.-sponsored scientific panel, has just reported it is “extremely likely” global warming is predominantly man-made.

Let’s do our part. Make a difference in climate change by going geo!

“Going geo” means trading in your old, polluting oil-fired, gas-fired or costly-to-run electrical resistance heating system for one clean, quiet, energy-efficient geothermal ground source heat pump (GHP). Since one GHP provides heating and cooling it replaces both your old heating system and air conditioner.

Although you may not have heard about geo, it’s not new: this renewable technology has been around for over half a century! Using electricity to power its 300-500% efficient heat pump, you enjoy comfortable heat in the winter and cool in the summer.

Cutaway image shows geothermal pipes going from house into ground and back

Cutaway image shows geothermal pipes going from house into ground and back

The GHP produces no combustion fumes:

  • NO carbon dioxide (CO2) greenhouse gas,
  • NO deadly carbon monoxide (CO),
  • NO soot and
  • NO hot exhaust to heat the air.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) brochure “Environmental and Energy Benefits of Geothermal Heat Pumps” (September 1998, Reprinted April 1999):

Over an average 20-year lifespan, every 100,000 units of nominally sized residential GHPs will save more than 24 trillion BTUs of electrical energy, and save consumers approximately $500 million in heating and cooling costs at current prices. And over the same period, these 100,000 units reduce greenhouse gas emissions by almost 1.1 million metric tons of carbon equivalents.

That’s the equivalent to taking nearly 60,000 cars off the road or planting over 120,000 acres of trees.

What are you waiting for?!

If your current heating system is over 20 years old it’s time to trade it in for a new geothermal heat pump. See the Long Island Geothermal Energy Organization’s (LI-GEO) Find-A-Pro to choose your geothermal contractor and start reducing your carbon footprint today.

Cannot Mandate Renewable Technologies

This is the full text of a letter I sent to Newsday on December 5, 2012.

To the Editor of Newsday:

I was pleased you printed the letter regarding Long Island energy independence [Clean energy, accountability at LIPA, Newsday, December 5, 2012]. There is a vital need to continue this dialog on energy self-sufficiency and alternative energy technologies, including wind power.

As a Green Choices Consultant, member of the Long Island Geothermal Energy Organization (LI-GEO) and owner of an Energy Star® home with both a solar panel array and geothermal heating and cooling system, I applaud the writer for his suggestions. There are some caveats, however.

Number one: In general, it is better to incentivize change rather than legislate it. For this one thing, LIPA should be commended for its “Solar Pioneer” and “Geothermal & GeoColumn” rebate programs. These programs are funded through the Efficiency & Renewables Charges (of $0.006246 per kWH consumed, as per the monthly LIPA bill.) It is essential to continue these programs and not divert the funds to meet LIPA shortfalls.

For those who take part in these LIPA programs, rebates are sent only after the inspection and certification process. In addition, all contractors involved in these programs must be approved by LIPA. Most solar and geothermal customers use these programs to help offset costs.

Number two: Solar panels are a wonderful way to produce power for the electric grid, especially during peak demand; however the solar cells require direct sunlight for a good part of the day to generate enough electricity to make it a viable return on investment.

Many roofs lack the proper orientation to the sun for this to occur. A roof facing solar south is optimal; east-west roofs have some potential, north are impossible. Another factor is trees, which can create a significant shading issue that makes solar a poor investment.

Number three: Geothermal heating and cooling systems have their own challenges with soil conditions, which vary depending on the location on Long Island. Clay and sandy soils and underground water pose different kinds of difficulties for the geothermal engineer.

My point is that it is a good idea to consider utilizing these two technologies when building or renovating, but know that neither solar nor geothermal is right in every situation. Therefore they cannot be mandated.

One thing all homeowners can do is invest in improving the energy efficiency of their homes. This can be funded in part by NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority) and LIPA programs, which pay for FREE home energy audits for homeowners and residential landlords. These funds can also be used by those who add energy efficiency improvements, even if they are done as part of their post-Sandy reconstruction. They will see the results every month when they pay lower electric and heating bills.

A final note: any responsible solar panel or geothermal installer will advise customers to make these energy efficiency upgrades before investing in such big-ticket items for their homes.

And yes, as Long Islanders come to accept and employ energy efficiency and conservation practices and alternative energy sources as mainstream—not fringe—technologies, our need for combustion-driven power plants, especially those outdated, polluting ones brought online only during peak demand, will decrease.

Billii Roberti
Green Choices Consulting
Member of the Town of Huntington Renewable Energy Task Force and
Co-Presenter of the Task Force’s “Home Energy Efficiency” clinics at area libraries
Member of the Long Island Geothermal Energy Organization (LI-GEO)
53 Hillwood Drive
Huntington Station, NY 11746
(631) 385-1387