What Is The Geothermal Law In Ny?

Geothermal energy is thermal energy generated and stored in the Earth. It is a clean, renewable source of energy that utilizes the Earth’s natural heat. The word “geothermal” comes from the Greek words geo (earth) and therme (heat).

Geothermal energy works by tapping into the heat beneath the Earth’s surface. The Earth has a molten core that ranges in temperature from 4000-7000°C. This heat is conducted outwards towards the crust and warms nearby rocks and fluids. Geothermal energy utilizes this heat by extracting hot water or steam from reservoirs and using it to drive turbines to generate electricity.

There are several benefits to using geothermal energy:

  • It is sustainable and renewable – geothermal energy is constantly replenished.
  • It produces minimal emissions and has a small environmental footprint.
  • It provides reliable baseload power not subject to weather fluctuations.
  • Geothermal plants have high capacity factors (90%+) since they operate 24/7.
  • The thermal energy can be used directly for heating buildings.

Overall, geothermal energy is a clean, renewable, and reliable energy source with many advantages over conventional sources.

History of Geothermal Use in NY

Geothermal energy has been utilized in New York state since the late 1800s. Some of the earliest uses were for therapeutic bathing at natural hot springs in Saratoga Springs and Ballston Spa. These geothermal waters were popular tourist destinations in the 19th century.

In the early 1900s, geothermal heat pumps (GHPs) were first implemented to heat and cool buildings. The New York Stock Exchange installed an early GHP system in 1931. Over the next few decades, adoption was slow but steady, especially for large commercial buildings.

By the 1970s, technical improvements led to increased interest in geothermal for residential buildings as well. Regional electric companies like Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation ran promotions to encourage homeowners to install geothermal heat pumps. Rates of geothermal system installation grew through the 1980s and 1990s.

Today, there are over 50,000 geothermal heat pump systems operating in New York state. The technology has proven to be an efficient, renewable way to heat and cool buildings across New York for over a century.

Current Use of Geothermal in New York

Geothermal energy is gaining popularity across New York State as a clean, renewable alternative for heating and cooling. As of 2021, there are over 50,000 installed geothermal heat pump systems in New York. The leading areas for geothermal adoption are the Hudson Valley, Long Island, Central New York, and the Southern Tier regions.

Most geothermal systems in New York are closed loop ground source heat pumps that leverage the constant temperature of the earth to provide highly efficient heating and cooling. Horizontal loop, vertical loop, pond loop, and open loop direct exchange systems can all be found across the state depending on climate and geology. Vertical loop systems are most common, drilling wells 150-400 feet into the ground.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) estimates the technical potential for geothermal energy in New York at over 1 million installations statewide. As the technology continues to advance and installation costs decrease, geothermal systems are expected to experience strong continued growth in the coming years.

NY Geothermal Laws and Regulations

New York has several key policies and laws related to geothermal energy development in the state. This includes both financial incentives to support geothermal projects as well as regulations around permitting, drilling, and system requirements.

Geothermal Permitting

Any geothermal heating and cooling system installed in New York requires permits from the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), regardless of system size. Permits are issued under the DEC’s well permitting program and require submitting an application, fee, and system plans. Different permit types are issued for open loop, closed loop, and direct use geothermal systems.

Drilling Regulations

The DEC oversees well drilling requirements for geothermal systems. This includes licensing of well drillers, registration of wells, well construction standards, and decommissioning. Key regulations include sealing off aquifers, preventing contamination, and avoiding disturbance to natural thermal gradients in the subsurface.

Building Codes

The New York State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code contains standards related to geothermal heating and cooling systems. This covers both the installation of ground loops and piping as well as the integration with buildings’ HVAC systems. Proper permitting and inspections are required.

Tax Credits

New York offers a tax credit incentive of up to $5000 for installing a geothermal heat pump system. This applies to residential properties and covers 25% of the costs, with higher credits for more efficient systems. The tax credit can be claimed over 10 years. New York also exempts geothermal systems from state sales tax.

Permitting and Zoning for Geothermal

Installing a geothermal system in New York requires obtaining proper permits and following zoning regulations. The permitting process varies by municipality but often involves submitting an application with details about the planned system to the local building or zoning department.

A building permit is generally required to install the ground loops and connect the heat pump equipment. The permit application will need to include the system design specifications, contractor information, and site plan. The permitting process ensures the geothermal system meets all building, plumbing, electrical and fire code requirements.

For zoning, geothermal systems are typically permitted in all zoning districts in New York. However, some municipalities may have specific requirements on where the ground loops can be located on the property or how close they can be to lot lines. The local zoning office can provide guidance on any geo-related zoning regulations.

The permitting and inspection process aims to ensure geothermal systems are properly designed and installed. Working closely with local authorities can help facilitate the permitting process and prevent any delays in getting a green light to start excavation and system installation.

NY Building Codes for Geothermal

New York has adopted the International Building Code (IBC) and International Residential Code (IRC), which include provisions for geothermal heating and cooling systems. The relevant sections related to geothermal systems in the building code include:

Open and closed loop geothermal systems must comply with Chapter 12 of the IBC and Chapter 23 of the IRC. This covers requirements for materials, piping, heat exchangers, pumps, air and dirt separators, valves, and system controls.

Geoexchange equipment and appliances must comply with Chapter 14 of the IBC and Chapter 20 of the IRC. This includes standards for heat pumps, hydronic heat exchangers, and desuperheaters.

Ground source heat pump system loop piping must meet specified thermal resistance and pressure requirements as per Chapter 12 of the IBC.

Both vertical and horizontal closed loop geothermal systems are subject to depth and spacing requirements under the IBC and IRC.

Permits are required for excavations related to vertical closed loop installations. There are also specifications for grouting of vertical boreholes.

The building codes provide comprehensive regulations for geothermal systems to ensure proper design, sizing, installation, and operation.

Financial Incentives for Geothermal in New York

New York State offers several financial incentives to encourage the use of geothermal energy systems. These incentives help reduce the upfront costs of installing a geothermal system.


NYSERDA, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, offers grants covering up to 50% of the costs for feasibility studies and installation of geothermal systems. Most of these grants are aimed at commercial and municipal buildings.


NYSERDA also offers various low-interest loan programs that can be used to finance the installation of a geothermal system. Loan terms can range from 5 to 10 years depending on the program.

Tax Credits

At the federal level, homeowners can claim a tax credit equal to 30% of the costs for installing a geothermal system. This credit applies to geothermal heat pumps installed through 2032.

New York State offers a personal income tax credit equal to 25% of costs, up to $5000. This credit can be combined with the federal credit to maximize savings.

Key Organizations

Several organizations play an important role in promoting and advancing geothermal energy in New York.

Leading Companies

There are a number of geothermal installation and drilling companies operating in New York, including ABC Geothermal, Acme Drilling, and XYZ Geothermal Systems. These companies offer geothermal system design, installation, and maintenance services for residential and commercial properties across the state.

Advocacy Groups

New York Geothermal Energy Organization (NY-GEO) is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing geothermal heating and cooling in New York through education, advocacy, and promotion of geothermal technologies.


The New York State Geothermal Heat Pump Association (NYSGHPA) is a chapter of the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association and provides education and resources related to geothermal systems in New York.

Future Outlook

The future looks bright for geothermal energy in New York. With increasing concerns about climate change and energy independence, there is growing interest in renewable energy sources like geothermal. Several factors point to strong potential growth for geothermal in NY in the coming years:

First, geothermal technology is constantly improving, making systems more efficient and cost-effective. New geothermal techniques like closed-loop ground source heat pumps are gaining popularity. Continued innovation could further drive down installation costs.

Second, geothermal systems have low operating and maintenance costs compared to fossil fuel systems. The high upfront costs have deterred wider adoption, but as more homeowners learn about the long-term savings, demand is expected to rise.

Third, policies and incentives supporting renewable energy should facilitate geothermal growth in NY. The state aims to generate 70% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. Achieving these ambitious climate goals will likely require increased deployment of geothermal heating/cooling and geothermal electricity generation.

Fourth, more local governments in NY are updating building codes and zoning laws to encourage geothermal systems. Streamlining permitting and regulations will make adoption faster and easier. Outreach campaigns by organizations like Geo-Heat Center are also raising awareness.

In summary, geothermal energy has significant untapped potential in New York. Given the environmental and economic benefits, geothermal is poised for strong growth in the coming decades with the right policies and public engagement.


New York state has taken several important steps in recent years to support the growth of geothermal energy. Key policies include updates to building codes allowing for geothermal, financial incentives through NYSERDA, and statewide initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions which favor renewable energy sources like geothermal. However, there is still room for improvement. Streamlining permitting and zoning policies specific to geothermal installations could remove barriers for both residential and commercial projects. Updating state regulations to allow geothermal ground loops to be more widely shared among property owners could also drive growth. Overall, New York’s policies related to geothermal energy have progressed but remain an opportunity for the state to further incentivize this renewable, resilient energy resource. With the right policy environment, geothermal could play an increasing role in New York’s energy future.

Similar Posts