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Geothermal heating system installed at Glenwood Village in Riverhead

Some of the region’s top energy and elected officials came together in Riverhead last Thursday to showcase a signature achievement on Long Island: the installation of a geothermal heating system that connects 10 residences in Glenwood Village.

Constructed by Miller Environmental Group Inc. of Calverton, the system taps into the earth’s natural warmth and, via underground tubes, connects residences in the village in a way whereby each can be heated in winter and cooled in summer with nearly no environmental consequences.

“This is the most efficient heating and cooling there is,” said Mark Miller, the firm’s president and CEO. “It is far cleaner and with far less of a carbon footprint.”

Attending a ribbon-cutting at Glenwood Village were officials from National Grid, PSEG Long Island and NYSERDA, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

Before the event, Ken Daly, president of National Grid, Long Island’s natural gas delivery company, said the geothermal system at Glenwood Village demonstrates “the art of the possible with the earth’s energy.”

He said geothermal was “cleaner and greener,” typically offering homeowners who install such a systems savings of 30 percent a year on cooling costs and 70 percent on heating costs. He hailed it as part of New York’s clean energy initiative, which is part of a concerted effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions statewide.

Mr. Daly explained that the Miller Environmental Group bored holes 250 feet deep into the earth and inserted a loop in each bore. The loops are made of high-density polyethelene, the same as pipe that is used to transport natural gas.

The loops are connected to each of the 10 participating residences. In summer, the energy brought up from underground is used to cool residences and in winter to heat residences. No oil or natural gas is burned, and carbon emissions are all but eliminated.

“If you look into the future, wind, solar and geothermal are the future,” Mr. Daly said.

Speaking at a podium, Mr. Daly described the earth as “the ultimate battery.” He said geothermal comprises three things: a heat pump, the underground tubes and the earth itself. He said converting one house to geothermal was the equivalent of taking 20 cars off the road.

Alicia Barton, president and CEO of NYSERDA, said the project in the village “is the start of something great. We are making moves across the board on clean energy.” She said commercial buildings contribute one-third of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“That is one area where we need to make real progress,” she said.

Michael Voltz — the aptly named director of energy efficiency and renewables at PSEG Long Island — said geothermal was 400 percent more efficient than other energy systems. He said some 2,000 geothermal units have been installed on Long Island in the past 15 years, most in single-family homes.

In his comments at the podium, Suffolk County Executive Steven Bellone hailed the system as “incredibly important” for the county. Noting that superstorm Sandy hit five years ago this month, he emphasized that the reality of climate change was already upon us, with a higher frequency of “very tough storms.”

He said New York State was “racing to the future” with clean energy.

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File photo credit: Barbaraellen Koch