By JENNIFER HILL • Hometown Oneonta & The Freeman’s Journal
ONEONTA – Oneonta could soon become a world leader in renewable energy.
The City of Oneonta and Jay Egg, CEO of Geo Egg, a Florida-based geothermal design and consulting company, are about to sign a $10,000 contract for a feasibility study on paralleling a geothermal heating system with the water main being installed in South Main Street over the next eight months.
If Geo Egg determines it is feasible and the city decides to do it, Oneonta will become the first city in the world to install a retrofitted geothermal heating system.
“This will be a landmark system,” Egg said. “There is no retrofitted geothermal system on a city level anywhere.”
Egg met Tuesday, Feb. 9, with City Manager George Korthauer, City Engineer Greg Mattice, and Gary Smith, Fox Hospital’s vice president/operations, to finalizing the contract.
And Fox Hospital is also “exploring being an end-user of the geothermal system if we install it,” Mayor Gary Herzig said on Tuesday.
“They sound like they want to move forward without a doubt,” Egg said in a phone interview. “I expect to sign the contract within days.”
Common Council unanimously approved a motion to contract with Geo Egg for it do the geothermal feasibility study in its April 2 meeting.
Herzig also announced the city’s plan to hire Geo Egg at the Otsego County Board’s April 3 meeting.
“I think it’s important for the largest city in Otsego County to be a leader in all types of energy, particularly new ways of renewable energy,” Herzig said.
Ellen Pope, Otsego 2000 executive director, said of the plan, “We think that’s the way to go. We strongly encourage the city to save the city and citizens money and to get off of fossil fuels. Geothermal is a great way to do it.”
Installing a geothermal heating system means digging a well 200-400 feet deep and laying pipes in a loop. In the winter, heat is extracted from the circulating water; in the summer, coolness is extract.
The system is likened to what happens in an air-conditioner in the summer, and the reverse in the winter.
And while it can be expensive to install the system, Egg said, once the system it paid off, the benefits of geothermal heating greatly outweigh the costs. The Geo Egg website reports a user of geothermal heating systems “can expect to save over 50 percent in energy costs over time.”
Egg’s website also says geothermal energy’s “coefficient of performance is 3-5,” which means “for every unit of electricity that powers the system yields 3-5 units of heat energy.”
“If you compare that to natural gas,” Egg said, “natural gas is 95 to 98 percent efficient while geothermal is 400 to 500 percent efficient, in terms of energy use and outcome.”
And of course, geothermal energy is renewable and will not pollute the environment, unlike fossil fuels.
“It’s how we have to move forward,” said Egg, who was keynote speaker at the Otsego County Chamber’s Energy Summit at The Otesaga in January. “We have to get off fossil fuels.”
The Town of Oneonta is also considering having a geothermal heating system installed in Southside. Egg will give a presentation on geothermal heating – how it works, installation methods and costs, and the benefits – at the Town Board’s meeting Wednesday, April 10.