BURLINGTON, Vt., April 17 – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today hosted a roundtable to discuss geothermal energy’s role in moving Vermont to a cleaner, more sustainable and more energy-independent future.
“While in Vermont we continue to lead the nation in energy efficiency and we are making some progress on sustainable energy, I think it is critical that at a time when we spend on average $350 billion ayear for foreign oil that we take every possible step to invest in cleaner technologies here in the United States,” Sanders said.
Joining the senator were Assistant U.S. Energy Secretary Cathy Zoi, U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) leading geothermal installers and experts from Vermont, homeowners and others who have installed geothermal systems.
Also known as ground-source heat pumps, geothermal energy systems are used to heat and cool buildings and homes, and can also provide hot water heating. Because the earth’s temperature below the surface remains at a constant 45 to 58 degrees Fahrenheit, geothermal systems can use underground piping and pumps to provide heating when it is cool outside, and to pull heat from buildings when it is warm outside.
Geothermal heating and cooling systems can be used anywhere in the country. The Environmental Protection Agency has rated geothermal heat pumps one of the most efficient technologies for heating and cooling. For every 100,000 homes with geothermal heating and cooling systems, 2.15 million barrels of oil are saved a year and electricity use is reduced by 799 million kilowatt hours annually.
“The reason geothermal technology is exciting, in my view, is that you can save energy, reduce pollution, and save money all at once,” Sanders said.
Geothermal systems are eligible, thanks to the stimulus, for a 30 percent federal tax credit, which means that for some homes, and particularly in new construction, geothermal pays for itself in 7 to 10 years. These systems can also be cost-effective for larger commercial buildings.
In Vermont, there are geothermal systems already in place today in the Bennington Veterans Home, at NRG Systems headquarters in Hinesburg, and also at the Vietnam Veterans Rest Stop on I-89 in Sharon, where geothermal heats and cools the rest stop building and melts snow on the sidewalks. Champlain College and Sutton School are also installing geothermal.
But there is room for improvement. New York has around 200 or more buildings with geothermal, ranging from hotels to schools to offices and even the concession building at the Statue of Liberty. Massachusetts has more than 1,000 geothermal systems installed at homes and businesses. Estimates in New Hampshire are that they have at least 340 systems installed, and Connecticut has more than 500.
“While geothermal may not be for everyone, it certainly has the potential to benefit many Vermonters and help move our nation to sustainable energy,” Sanders said.