Geothermal heating bill passes unanimously in City Council

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The City Council voted unanimously to pass a bill to encourage geothermal energy. The bill will promote the use of geothermal systems, an energy-efficient form of cooling and heating buildings, throughout the city. The long-term impact of carbon emissions will be considered as part of a cost-efficiency analysis for installing geothermal in city-owned buildings.

“This bill represents the first time in city history that the social cost of carbon will be considered as part of implementing an environmental policy,” the bill’s sponsor, Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria), said. “Using geothermal technology in city-owned buildings will save us money, will reduce our carbon footprint and offer a road map for environmental leadership for the private sector to follow. The online screening tool will also provide an opportunity for informed private geothermal installations, making them more simple and safe for people to install in their homes or commercial buildings.”

Buildings account for 70 percent of carbon emissions citywide, he explained. Geothermal energy systems work similarly to traditional-building HVAC systems and help reduce reliance on fuel-fire burners and cooling towers.

These systems operate by utilizing stored heat under the earth’s crust in the winter. They also cool people off in the summer by channeling heat into the ground.

Geothermal systems are currently used at the Queens Botanical Garden, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. Constantinides said it is another step towards a shared goal of reducing greenhouse emissions 80 percent by 2050 in New York City.

“Our study earlier this year showed that New York City has some of the best geology and conditions for the adoption of geothermal systems,” Mayor’s Office of Sustainability Director Nilda Mesa said. “At the same time, in areas that are not suited for these systems, it’s important for building owners to know that up front. We look forward to clearing the way for more geothermal systems in New York City at less cost and planning time for building owners, and to finding ways to use this strategy even more often in our own municipal buidings where we can.”

A study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that geothermal heat pumps are the most energy efficient, environmentally clean and cost-effective space-conditioning systems available, with the lowest carbon dioxide emissions. These systems have fewer components than traditional HVAC systems, their components are less exposed to outdoor weather conditions, and they have a longer lifespan.

“As a clean, renewable source of power, geothermal heat is exactly the type of innovation that will help New York become a greener, more sustainable city,” Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

Updated 1:48 pm, December 11, 2015
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