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National Grid launches geothermal demonstration project in Glenwood Village

National Grid New York president Ken Daly snips the ribbon in a ceremony celebrating the launch of the geothermal demonstration project in Glenwood Village Thursday. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Ten homeowners in Glenwood Village will have their heating and cooling bills reduced thanks to the free installation of geothermal clean heating and cooling systems as part of a demonstration project by National Grid and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

The geothermal systems, which use the earth to provide heating and cooling, are expected to reduce the homeowners’ annual heating and cooling costs up to 25 percent, said Glenwood Village principal Brian Stark.

National Grid installed a shared community loop field system underground in a common recreation area in Glenwood Village and then connected 10 surrounding homes to the system, installing in each home the equipment needed to utilize the system. The homes have been heated with propane gas and cooled by electric air conditioning units.

National Grid New York president Ken Daly explained how the geothermal system works.
Photo: Denise Civiletti

“This is the first of its kind,” said National Grid New York president Ken Daly. “It’s the first time a utility is installing a loop system not to serve one customer but a whole community.”

Daly explained how the geothermal system works.

“There are three parts to it. There’s the heat pump, which is proven technology that’s been around a long time,” he said. It circulates the heat around the home. “There’s the geothermal system, which is made from the same material as our gas pipes, but you go down 250 feet,” he said,

“Then there’s the Earth, which is really the magic of this project. When you go down that far, the temperature is 55 degrees, winter and summer. Basically the Earth acts as a battery, it releases the heat into the home. In the summer, it sends the heat back into the earth and keeps the homes cool,” Daly said.

Glenwood Village owner Brian Stark and each of the homeowners were presented with a jar filled with layers of soils, reflecting the soil formation in the 250-foot dig for the installation of the geothermal system in Glenwood Village. Photo: Denise Civiletti

“It’s really special for us because it’s good for the customer. The average customer cooling load will be down by 30 percent and the heating load can be down by up to 70 percent. To put dollars on that, the cooling bill will be down $300 to $400 and the heating bill will be down about $1,000, every year,” Daly said.

“But the real win is for the environment. A single home geothermal conversion is the equivalent of taking 20 cars off the road,” Daly said. “So the 10 homes today is the equivalent of 200 cars coming off the road.”

The demonstration project was funded by grants and at no cost to the homeowners.

“This type of system would normally be beyond the financial reach of homeowners in this community,” Stark said. Glenwood Village is a manufactured home community for 55-and-older adults.

NYSERDA will install 35 clean heating and cooling systems throughout Long Island. Glenwood is one of five locations identified to date.

The goal of the project is to gather detailed data on cost, effectiveness and customer satisfaction, according to National Grid, which said in a press release it seeks to determine, in collaboration with the New York State Public Service Commission and NYSERDA, whether the project can be replicated on a larger scale.

The project was ordered by the State Public Service Commission in December as part of National Grid’s rate case approval.

In a press release this week, PSC chairman John Rhodes called the pilot program “an important step in furthering the state’s policy goals of encouraging the use of clean, renewable energy while increasing cost-effective technologies and affordability.”

Fossil fuel-based thermal energy – natural gas, propane and oil – is the main energy source for space heating and domestic hot water in homes and businesses. Fossil fuel-based energy is responsible for about a third of New York’s energy-related greenhouse gas emissions.

Increasing the use of clean heating and cooling systems will play a major role in achieving the state’s clean energy goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030, according to NYSERDA.

Government officials and National Grid executives held a press conference and ceremonial ribbon-cutting for the installation at Glenwood Village Thursday afternoon.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone spoke about the importance of clean energy to reduce greenhouse gases and combat climate change.
Photo: Denise Civiletti

County Executive Steve Bellone, County Legislature Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory, County Legislator Al Krupski, Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter and members of the Riverhead Town Board were on hand for the event, which took place in the Glenwood Village community center. They joined National Grid and NYSERDA officials, including NYSERDA president and CEO Alicia Barton, and officials from PSEG Long Island.

“This is incredibly important for us,” Bellone said. “One of the things we know for sure is that climate change is real. It is happening and one of the impacts of it is increased frequency these very tough storms,” he said, citing Long Island’s vulnerability to storms like Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

“So one of the ways we’re dealing with that is to embrace a clean energy future,” Bellone said. Suffolk County has worked to improve the permitting process for geothermal systems, he said.

“The future is here. It is now. In Suffolk County, we’re going to do everything we can to embrace it and help homeowners to make that transition,” Bellone said. Ultimately, more affordable energy costs will help make Long Island a more competitive region.

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter praised the geothermal system’s cost-saving properties.
Photo: Denise Civiletti

The Riverhead town supervisor focused his remarks on costs. “I call it the 50-yard principle. People care most about what’s happening within 50 yards from their house. Saving money on energy costs is important,” Walter said.

When National Grid contacted him seeking help to find a community that would qualify under the grant guidelines for this demonstration project, Walter said he immediately thought of Glenwood.

“When they said ‘free’ well I’m all about ‘free’ and I know Brian is someone who also loves ‘free’ immediately thought of him. Plus, Brian, you are in my cell phone,” Walter joked.

“I look forward to the day where we’re putting these wells in all over the place so we could reduce our energy costs,” Walter said.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said she thinks the project is great. “Renewable energy is the way to go. I think it’s good for a clean environment,” Giglio said. “It’s a very effective way of reducing our carbon footprint.”

Brian Stark with seven of the 10 Glenwood Village homeowners having geothermal heating and cooling systems installed. Photo: Denise Civiletti
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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter and editor, an attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including a “writer of the year” award from the N.Y. Press Association in 2015. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website. Email Denise.