Ulbrich Heights Community Geothermal Project

UPDATE (2/26): Certified drillers drilled a test borehole 500 ft deep at Ulbrich Heights on February 12. Grouting and thermal conductivity testing have been completed as of February 21 and the testing site has been cleaned up. The team expects to receive test results soon.

About

The U.S. Department of Energy has funded 11 projects across the country to explore the potential of community-scale networked geothermal systems, through the Community Geothermal Heating and Cooling Design and Deployment Grant Program.

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) won an award, in partnership with the University of Connecticut, Wallingford Housing Authority, Wallingford Electric Division, and Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships, to conduct community engagement, design a networked geothermal system for part of the housing authority’s campus, and complete a CT geothermal workforce needs assessment.

The primary objective of the proposed project is to design a technically and economically feasible low-temperature, shallow geothermal heating and cooling system for an affordable housing complex in a Connecticut environmental justice community in Wallingford, CT that will serve at least 50% of the heating and cooling load of a 132-unit, affordable housing complex in Wallingford, CT — Ulbrich Heights. The Ulbrich Heights community has been actively seeking to undertake capital and energy improvements that address American with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance and energy efficiency for an affordable-housing development providing homes to 21 disabled, 19 elderly, and 100 female-headed households. 

What is Geothermal?

  • There are two main uses for geothermal energy; one is producing electricity using deep wells that reach very hot temperatures, and the other is using the consistent temperature of the soil anywhere from 5-500 ft below the surface for heating indoor air and water. This project is focused on the latter: geothermal heating and cooling using ground source heat pumps.
  • In the northeast U.S., the temperature 5 ft underground remains about 55° F year-round. Ground source heat pumps circulate fluid through pipes underground to efficiently exchange heat, heating homes in the winter and cooling them in the summer. These can heat single buildings or large networks of buildings, making them very versatile. They are also much more efficient than gas or oil burners and can create significant energy and cost savings over time.
  • Community geothermal (also called networked or district geothermal) is a network of these systems to provide heating and cooling to multiple buildings and homes. Click here to view an example of a community geothermal system.

Graphic: U.S. Department of Energy Geothermal Technologies Office

Benefits of Geothermal
  • While geothermal systems have higher upfront costs than many other types of HVAC system, their high efficiency and long lifespans can mean significant savings on energy costs in the long run.
  • Geothermal heating and cooling systems use electricity and transfer heat from below ground without burning any fossil fuels. Fossil fuel heating systems have harmful climate and indoor air quality effects, which geothermal systems eliminate.
  • Geothermal systems have long shelf lives: indoor units can last around 25 years, and ground loops can last 50 years or more. They also usually require less frequent maintenance.
  • In a geothermal system no external air is brought in, so outdoor pollutants don’t enter the home.

Source: Home Geothermal Pros & Cons - Dandelion Energy.

Project Timeline
  • Phase 1 of this project encompasses design of the community geothermal system and spans October 2023 to September 2024. A timeline of approximate dates is available here. Some of the major milestones include:
    • Geothermal Workforce Needs Assessment report
    • Four geothermal workforce workshops
    • Geothermal system draft designs
    • Geothermal Workforce Plan
    • Procurement Scope of Work
    • Community Engagement Plan
    • Case study on the design of the system
  • Phase 1 grantees will compete again for Phase 2 grant funding to implement and install the community geothermal system conceived and designed in Phase 1.

How to Get Involved

Links to documents for public comment will be posted here throughout the project timeline.

February 13, 2024 | Test Borehole Drilling Flier

January 12, 2024 Geothermal workforce surveys.  

Do you work in geothermal or are you interested in getting involved in geothermal? Please fill out our surveys! The goal of these surveys is to identify geothermal workforce gaps and then use the results of the surveys to develop a plan to address the gaps and grow the geothermal workforce in CT. There are three surveys targeting different components of the geothermal workforce and training pathways.

Survey for drillers/installers/manufactures/engineers: Needs Assessment Survey

Survey for trade schools: Needs Assessment Survey

Survey for training centers: Workforce Needs Assessment Survey

We expect the surveys to take 15 to 20 minutes. Please answer off the top of your head - we do not expect you to look up anything.

The survey does not require any names or identifying characteristics, and all questions are optional and will be reported anonymously. Within the next year, we will issue a report that describes the current state of the geothermal workforce in Connecticut and assesses its readiness for the next several years.

This survey would best be filled out by someone with a broad understanding and knowledge of the company, school, or training center, and we ask that just one person from your organization fill it out.

October 17, 2023 | Community Geothermal Informational Flier

 

Contact Us

Email

Reach the team at ulbrichgeothermal@neep.org.

Phone

Reach the team on the phone at (781)860-9177 ext. 151

Frequently Asked Questions

Please see this FAQ document for answers to frequently asked questions (last updated February 1, 2024).

 
Project team members include:
  • CT DEEP
  • University of Connecticut
  • Wallingford Housing Authority
  • Wallingford Electric Department
  • Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships
The Project Advisory Committee includes:
  • CT Housing Financing Authority
  • CT Department of Housing
  • Eversource
  • CT DEEP Office of Legal, Planning and Regulatory Affairs
  • CT DEEP Environmental Justice Office
  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory
  • CT Office of Workforce Strategy

Content last updated February 2024