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PENN YAN   ADVERTISEMENT

Harvesting energy from a sustainable energy source

PENN YAN—Geothermal energy was discovered centuries ago, but the technology that allows it to be tamed for use in heating and cooling structures is a late 20th century phenomenon.
Inside a structure there is little difference between geothermal energy as a source for heating and cooling and more traditional sources, such as natural gas, oil or electricity. Outside there is little evidence of the work going on underground, or even underwater, to produce energy. A network of pipes that is below the surface where temperatures are a constant 30 to 50 degrees according to the time of years is the heart of the process. Methanol and water is inside the pipes and energy is extracted from the ground, or in the case of underwater, from the depth that has a constant temperature. The result is consistent heat and cooling. The methanol used in the pipe is also rather green. It is a byproduct of  biodeisel manufactured in the area, making it biomethanol.
Penn Yan native Kevin Moravec is involved in a company that has been installing geothermal systems for more than 30 years. He and VanHee project manager David Neale spoke about the process, making more clear that which seems to be an impossible process. Neale said, "You are harvesting solar energy. You borrow it in winter and put it back in the summer. As long as the soil or water temperature is higher, water goes into the loop and as it goes around it picks up energy. When the water enters the machine, it extracts energy from it.'" Neale went on to explain that a heat pump is used to convert it, similar to how a refrigerator operates, only in reverse. The heat pump can heat and cool. He also commented the technology is somewhat  misunderstood. It may be in part because it is so different from traditional methods of heating and cooling.
Cost of installation is a big barrier for some people considering geothermal energy due to the need for patience until the cost of installation is offset by the lack of the need to purchase more traditional heating fuels every year, such as natural gas or oil. There are also government programs to help with startup cost, both which are available through 2010 that total a 30 percent tax rebate one very aspect of sustainable energy. The Federal government offers a 20 percent benefit and New York State a 10 percent grant. Because the system is mainly underground, it lasts longer than conventional systems. The heat pump is indoors but also  lasts longer than a traditional oil furnace by several years and an air conditioner by about double the average life of 12 to 15 years.
Moravec said he was intrigued when he read about the concept and saw the potential. One of the big plus features Moravec noted is cost. He said, "It gives people control over something that scares a lot of people. You know what your costs will be. It's part of the green movement; something that will only grow momentum. I want to help to grow it faster."
 


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