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Local geothermal energy company looking to expand

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Buffalo GeoThermal Heating
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A local company says it wants to use the temperature of the earth to lower heating and air conditioning bills.Buffalo GeoThermal Heating says it has installed 300 of the systems locally in the last five years and it wants to install a lot more. Systems designer Jens Ponikau says that's why the company is asking for help from the Erie County Industrial Development Agency for its planned new complex on French Road in West Seneca.

For the $700,000 project, the company is looking for about $100,000 in help over ten years. The project would seven jobs to the company's current 12.

Ponikau says geothermal takes advantage of the temperature of the ground a few feet down.

"If you're down about eight to ten to 20 feet or below that, the ground stores pretty much the outside ambient temperature. So, we have a constant temperature of about 55 degrees here in Buffalo, New York and we use heat from that to essentially extract it from the ground and heat and cool buildings," says Ponikau.

The best local example is the constant year-round air temperature in Metro Rail stations.

Ponikau says a goal of the research planned in the new building is to establish ground temperatures across the area since designs here have to reflect installation in a wet swampy area or in a rocky area. Different geology might require deep wells to tap the ground while others might involve loops of plastic pipe carrying water only a few feet down.

The native of Hamburg, Germany says new home builders in Germany and Sweden often use geothermal in new homes; in Sweden 95 percent. While the equipment and the wells raise the costs, he says there are federal tax subsidies in this country and much lower energy bills which can pay that difference in three or four years.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.