Since making its debut in the United States in December 2008, Atlas Copco has been taking its Mustang 4-F1 compact rig on the road. Recently, the Baltimore branch of Atlas Copco Construction Mining Technique held a 2-day demonstration event for its regional sales team and customers to highlight the Mustang’s features – particularly those that make it suitable for geothermal drilling. More than 50 people were in attendance.

“The Mustang has been used in Europe for the past 30 years,” says Peter Redaelli, product specialist for the Mustang. “While it’s new to the U.S., it has been used extensively overseas and has a long track record of success.”

The Mustang is designed for geothermal drilling applications, particularly in the residential market. This has been a major factor in Atlas Copco’s decision to bring the Mustang to the United States. “A lot of it was a sense of responsibility that Atlas Copco has to the marketplace – to bring in something more eco-friendly and to show that we’re onboard with the green energy movement,” adds Redaelli. “We’re trying to do what we can to help support this growing market.” A free geothermal drilling information packet is available from any Atlas Copco branch store or dealer.

These demonstration events not only inform customers about the rig, but also about geothermal drilling opportunities. There are approximately 50,000 to 60,000 new geothermal heat pumps installed each year, and this industry is growing at an annual rate of 15 percent. With this in mind, Karl Gawell, executive director of the Geothermal Energy Association, offers encouraging news about the geothermal industry. “Forty percent of the calls we get in our Washington office everyday are people looking for ground source-geothermal heat pumps,” he says. “They are looking for information. I think the biggest problem is that there aren’t enough (drillers and installers) ready to go. People complain that they can’t find system designers or drillers within 200 miles of where they live, or that the installers can’t get to them for at least a year. So if you’re looking for jobs, this market is ready to go.”

Gawell adds that the geothermal industry still is very young, but seeing strong growth, particularly with the economic incentives currently available. “The demand is there; the public interest is there; and now some good incentives are there. There are the state grants and the 30-percent federal tax credit. So really, this is the time to get in. As the economy recovers, the growth rate for geothermal – across the board – is going to stay in the mid to high double digits. It will be unparalleled.”

Gawell points out, however, that education, organization and investment in technology and training are critical for success: “You need the right equipment and the right training.”