Times Union Opinion: With geothermal, the path to green energy runs underground

Spotlight on Member Commentary
Published in the Albany Times Union
Friday, March 15, 2024

With geothermal, the path to green energy runs underground

Thermal energy networks can help New York reduce emissions while maintaining grid reliability.

In reply to a story featured in the Albany Times Union titled, “Semiconductor manufacturing expected to strain NY electrical grid,” Greg Lancette, a member of the Clean Energy Jobs Coalition-NY and president of the New York State Pipe Trades Association and Central and Northern New York Building And Construction Trades, representing 29,000 members, issued commentary on how New York can achieve its climate goals while strengthening reliability and reducing carbon emissions by using thermal energy networks.


The thought leadership piece follows the publication’s “Editorial: The power paradox,” calling for nuclear power to also play a role in a smooth transition to a clean energy future. 


While the Clean Energy Jobs Coalition-NY strongly supports the expansion of nuclear power in New York as part of an “All of the Above Energy Strategy,” the group encourages policymakers to consider a new perspective (on an often-overlooked opportunity) to tap zero-emission generation beneath our feet to solve the clean energy puzzle, that is, thermal energy networks.


Read excerpts from Mr. Lancette’s view below and visit the Albany Times Union for the full piece here.

Commentary: With geothermal, the path to green energy runs underground

New York stands on the cusp of unprecedented growth. Projects such as Micron Technology’s $100 billion semiconductor manufacturing facility in the town of Clay, along with plans to triple the capacity at GlobalFoundries Fab 8 campus in Malta, require massive amounts of new power.


But while demand has skyrocketed, since 2004, New York’s power generation capacity shrank 13.5%, down to 36,894 megawatts from 42,647 MW.


This underscores the urgent need for sustainable energy solutions that not only meet burgeoning demand but do so in a way that enhances reliability and curtails greenhouse gas emissions in compliance with New York’s climate laws.

A big part of the answer lies beneath our feet.

Thermal energy networks are an ambient temperature loop system that connects multiple buildings by using some variation of ground-source heat pumps, geothermal infrastructure, waste heat energy and utility-owned load balancing systems.



The U.S. Department of Energy recognizes geothermal as a clean-energy cousin of solar and wind. The difference is that geothermal can produce 100% reliable, renewable electricity 24 hours per day, seven days per week, regardless of weather conditions.


Thermal energy networks can make zero-emission electricity, store excess energy for solar and wind installations, support various direct uses like cooling computer servers, or provide heating and cooling for air conditioning needs of buildings — all without adding emissions to the environment or stress to the grid. More, thermal energy networks are eligible for billions in federal funding, they are pivotal in water conservation, and they are projected to support up to 262,000 jobs by 2050.


Right now, discussions are underway on including $95 million in the state budget to fund geothermal projects on SUNY campuses. If approved, the state will take a major step forward in demonstrating that emission reductions and electric reliability are both achievable in the clean-energy transition.

As New York prepares to build several high-energy-consuming facilities and reflects on how to decarbonize existing structures, public officials should strongly consider mandating the integration of thermal energy networks into all new housing plans, commercial properties, data centers, infrastructure upgrades and industrial developments.

Longform Link: https://www.timesunion.com/opinion/article/geothermal-path-green-energy-runs-underground-19024326.php

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