Geothermal heat pumps revolutionizing New York’s green compliance
With the implementation of Local Law 97, NY high rises are at risk of paying hefty fines if they choose to opt-out of greenhouse gas emission standards. Passed in 2019, the law sets limits on annual greenhouse gas emissions, requiring buildings larger than 25,000 square feet to pay a yearly fine of $268 per metric ton in an effort to incentivize building owners to search for renewable energy options. The benchmarks have been set in 3 different stages thus far, with the first phase of compliance beginning in 2024. Next, buildings must reduce their emissions by 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050. This law will require significant changes for approximately 50,000 buildings of New York City’s infrastructure, so it is essential to begin refinancing plans for the future now.
While the new law creates a ‘property assessed clean energy’ (PACE) program to help building owners finance their projects, it’s important to recognize that owners shouldn’t solely rely on the low-or-no interest loans from the government. Instead, building owners should seek the most cost-effective, sustainable clean energy options for their specific properties to achieve long-term cost efficiency.
Because every building in New York City is different with respect to age, energy efficiency, mix of energy materials, etc., there is no specific route to take when choosing how to mitigate and reduce the carbon footprint, so it’s crucial to understand the various clean energy options to decide what works best for you. The time is now – many buildings in New York City have already gone green and met their 2024 and 2030 marks. If you’re behind the wave of the environmental regime, the moment has arrived to stop overlooking an inevitable and essential green future. Now is the time for forward-thinking investments to happen today.
One solution to reducing carbon emissions could be geothermal heat pumps, a newly popular technology that’s surprisingly been around in the United States since the 1930s. However, this technology has been gaining traction in recent months and could provide one of the missing pieces to this impending puzzle. Also known as ground-source heat pumps, the technology taps into the energy below the ground we walk.
Opposite of air-source heat pumps, which extract thermal energy from the outside air and create heat through combustion, ground-source heat pumps extract energy from the earth to heat or cool commercial or residential buildings, providing a two-in-one HVAC system. Not only is the technology far more efficient, cost-effective, and sustainable than conventional air-source systems, it is also quieter and requires little to no maintenance once the installation is complete. While upfront costs of geothermal technology are undeniably more than air-source HVAC systems, switching to the renewable energy option will undoubtedly outweigh the costs of the conventional methods, especially as benchmarks increase over time.
So, how does it work? You might have experienced a steep energy bill in the winter. This is because conventional air-source heating pumps attempt to transfer heat into your house or building from the cold air outside through combustion, resulting in an expensive and inefficient use of energy. On the contrary, the ground-source technology relies on the constancy of temperatures below the earth’s surface, which ranges from 57-77 degrees Fahrenheit, despite the weather above ground and changing seasons throughout the year. Using a series of underground pipes that circulate fluid, commonly called a “loop,” heat is either absorbed from the earth in the winter or released into the ground in the summer. No extra energy is lost because of the stable temperatures underground – it’s just collected and moved.
As stated earlier, many buildings have already integrated their clean energy systems and have met 2024 and 2030 emission standards. For example, The New York Department of Design and Construction recently installed a geothermal system at the Bronx River House in Starlight Park, creating 20% energy savings compared to the conventional heating and cooling system. Similarly, other buildings have established cohesive, clean energy plans that ensure financially feasible solutions for the future. Case in point, in recent months, Ecosave Inc., an independent energy services company, partnered with property developer LCOR, with a commitment to meeting the 80% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050. Through the use of geothermal heat pumps, the partnership aims to decarbonize two buildings’ heating, cooling, and domestic hot water systems. On Monday, July 19, 2021, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) awarded Ecosave as a first-round winner in the Community Heat Pump Systems Pilot Program for their renewable energy plan.
With more widespread government support, New York City is on its way to the complete transition from fossil fuel energy sources to a city that runs solely on clean energy technologies. However, before the sustainable options become overly saturated, you should act now and stay ahead of the curve. With a practical, cost-effective, and sustainable solution such as geothermal heat pumps, refinance your building now and set the stage for a secure transition towards a greener New York.
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