City Takes First Steps in Exploration of Geothermal Utility Services

Mayor Bill de Blasio. Image credit: CityLand

Geothermal heating and cooling are a very efficient and environmentally clean technology and energy that has been in use for decades but has gone underutilized by New York City. On April 21, 2021, Mayor de Blasio announced the first steps that will be taken to advance New York City’s transition to district geothermal systems. These geothermal systems will help replace fuel oil and natural gas, fundamentally changing how New York City heats and cools its buildings.

New York City plans to initiate a feasibility study to find potential project sites by the end of 2021. The study will focus on sites that will be technically viable, affordable, with environmental justice benefits, and have the biggest impact on gas usage reduction.

New York City also plans to pursue legislation to get authority to build and operate geothermal district demonstration projects. These projects will include private buildings and will provide the foundation for the building and operating of these systems in the future.

Geothermal energy and heating have widely been recognized as an efficient and more environmentally friendly way to provide heating and cooling. They provide the lowest operating costs of any fossil fuel alternative. A geothermal system was recently installed by the Department of Design and Construction at Bronx River Park in Starlight Park. The system has seen around 20 percent energy savings as compared to conventional heating and cooling systems.

Mayor Bill de Blasio stated, “We can and must leave fossil fuels behind and choose to run the places where we live, work and go to school on clean technologies. These are the solutions that we will continue to double down on to deliver on our climate goals and our promise of a healthy, clean, inclusive and safe New York City.”

Director of the Mayor’s Office of Climate & Sustainability, Ben Furnas stated, “The future of heating and cooling is coming, and not a moment too soon. Geothermal technologies will play a key role in providing clean, affordable, and comfortable homes and workplaces while accelerating our transition away from fossil fuels.”

Sonal Jessel, M.P.H., Director of Policy at WE ACT for Environmental Justice stated, “Geothermal heat pumps, powered by renewable energy, are an intriguing possibility for New York City worth exploring, especially with a focus on environmental justice. Given our growing work in decarbonization and electrification, and our success in training a renewable energy workforce, we would welcome the opportunity to partner with the City on a geothermal district demonstration project in Northern Manhattan.”

By: Patrick McNeill (Patrick is the CityLaw intern and a New York Law School student, Class of 2022.)


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