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Geothermal Power Advances as Sustainable Energy Source Proptech Startups Pave—and Drill—the Way

As New York City buildings strive to reduce their carbon footprints to comply with Local Law 97 limits—as well as to improve energy efficiency, reduce costs, and do their part to save the planet from climate catastrophe—an option gaining traction in the real estate sector is geothermal technology - the use of heat from the earth’s interior to provide heating and even cooling to buildings

Commercial Observer reports that new players in proptech are developing ways to make conversion to geothermal cheaper, more accessible, and less disruptive. 


“Geo-Piles”


Proptech entrepreneur Andrew Lee is CEO and co-founder of Toronto-based Innovia GEO, a three-year-old startup in the geothermal space that focuses on “developing innovative solutions to reduce the cost of installing a clean and efficient geothermal system, with the objective of increasing the adoption of clean and renewable geothermal,” says Lee. He contends that depending on the electricity and natural gas prices in a market, the operational energy cost savings of geothermal can be 20% to 60% over a conventional heating and cooling system. Innovia GEO has targeted cutting the “payback window” for recovering the costs of geothermal from 10 years to less than five, putting the system in line with ROI figures for both solar and wind conversions.

According to Lee, one of the barriers is the cost and disruption necessary in the drilling and installing of the geothermal ground heat exchangers using conventional drilling methods. To solve that issue, Innovia GEO is collaborating with Seth Dworkin of Ryerson University in Toronto to develop “Geo-Piles”—steel foundation piles with geothermal functionality already integrated, removing the need for additional drilling. (Alternatively, Lee adds, builders can get 60% of the geothermal energy from the existing foundation and only have to drill 40% of holes in the ground.)


“Geo as a Service”


Another company supporting geothermal uptake is Brightcore Energy, an advisor and funding provider for clean and renewable energy based in New York City. Its “Geo as a Service” provides 100% of the upfront capital for conversion to geothermal in a building’s retrofit or new construction; the client then pays an annual operational fee for the thermal energy system.

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