Geothermal already showed increasing demand before the passage in August of the Inflation Reduction Act. The IRA, however, could grow geothermal into something bigger, putting it on a level with solar and wind. Of course, readers want to know about anything that could mean a steady flow of profitable projects, so we reached out to Jeff Hammond to clarify things.
Hammond, the executive director of the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association (IGSHPA), sees geothermal heat pumps as complimentary to wind and solar (and vice versa), not as a competitor. The funds from the Inflation Reduction Act give all of these carbon-free technologies room to grow, he says.
“We need to raise awareness through advocacy, and showing this technology as a solution,” he says. “There’s just so many things that geothermal can do, along with solar and wind.”
Hammond expects big things for geothermal — and the drillers and HVAC contractors installing the systems — in the next 10 years. IGSHPA brings together professionals across the geothermal industry to share training and best practices. The group hosts its annual convention Dec. 6-8 in Las Vegas, coinciding with the National Ground Water Association’s Groundwater Week event.
Enjoy these highlights, or watch the full interview or listen to the podcast, where we talk U.S. adoption of geothermal, and other topics.
Q. Give us a preview of the upcoming conference and expo IGSHPA is hosting in Las Vegas in conjunction with this year’s Groundwater Week event.
A. We’re excited about it. This is the second conference we’ve worked with NGWA on and this year, as you mentioned it’s in Vegas at the Convention Center. It’s a really nice venue. We have four instead of three tracks this year. We still have our loop installer/driller track, residential and commercial, but we also have a research track this year. Now we have presenters from all over the world with a lot of new technology. They’ve submitted papers. I think we have 25 papers for that research track. Wednesday and Thursday we have the exhibit with NGWA, and there’s a special IGSHPA pavilion with 19 exhibitors. So we’ll have a chance to talk to drillers and other NGWA exhibitors, and hopefully exchange some good information about the industry.
We’re thrilled to have the U.S. Department of Energy’s Geothermal Technologies Office as our diamond sponsor. That’s just great for the for the industry. We’ll also have a lot of updates on the latest technologies in our workshops, including one by DOE on community geothermal systems.
Q. The recently passed Inflation Reduction Act includes tax incentives for a wide range of energy efficient systems, like geothermal, solar and even battery installations. Many of them apply to both residential and commercial. Put this in context for us. What does it mean to the industry?
A. It’s a really big deal for our industry for a number of reasons. Tax incentives are always great — they help to promote, but that’s assuming there’s certainty. The previous tax incentive was supposed to expire next year. That uncertainty makes it difficult for new entries into our industry. Drillers, especially, they have millions of dollars of capital equipment. This gives us some certainty with incentives through 2034. That way, when you invest in geothermal — especially if you’re buying drill rigs or hiring new people, you know it’s something that’s going to be consistent. That’s one of the biggest things, is just the fact that we have consistency here for a long term.
We also have some new additions to the legislation. One of the most exciting ones is direct payment. For nonprofits, let’s say, where they didn’t really have a tax liability, they couldn’t take advantage of that incentive last time. Now, a school or other nonprofit is eligible for direct payment.
Q. Between the IRA and the ambitious goals of states like New York, demand appears on an upward trend. How do we attract recruits into drilling and other trades to get all this work done?
A. Yeah, that’s a great question, and we could use more drillers yesterday, so that is something that is definitely a factor. But, really, all the drillers and HVAC contractors I’ve talked to, they’re looking for employees. If we can talk to new recruits about solid employment, good pay, job security — for sure, you’re not going to have to worry about a job in our industry because it’s just going to continue to explode. Also, from an environmental standpoint, any new recruits have the opportunity to really help with our efforts to decarbonize and just make the world a better place. It’s even a national security issue. As we move away from fossil fuels, we’re going to be less dependent on any kind of foreign energy. I think that’s the story for new recruits. There are a lot of kids in high school that they should really consider the trades rather than maybe a university degree. It could be a really big payback for them.