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Lawmakers urge Cuomo to sign geothermal system tax credit

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

Two New York State lawmakers, from both houses and from both parties, joined in Buffalo Tuesday urging Governor Cuomo to sign legislation that provides a tax credit for property owners converting to a geothermal heating and cooling system.

Such a system taps into the ground, utilizing the natural heat within the ground to warm a home during the winter months and then cool it during summer months.

"About 50 percent of the solar energy that hits the Earth is absorbed by the Earth," Nowak said. "A geothermal system sends pipes out into a yard... it absorbs the heat and brings it into the house. There, it's concentrated by heat pumps and distributed throughout the house. In the summer, the process is reversed and the yard acts as a heat sink to cool the house."

Supporters concede the up-front cost to install such a system is expensive, perhaps $20,000 to $30,000 depending on the size of a home. A tax credit passed in both houses of the New York State Legislature would refund property owners some of the initial installation costs, up to a $5,000 maximum.

"This tax credit will provide a 25 percent tax credit," said Assemblyman Sean Ryan (D-Buffalo). "If you put in a geothermal heating system, you're going to get back 25 percent of that cost from New York State."

Ryan and State Senator Rob Ortt (R,C,I-North Tonawanda) joined Nowak outside a house on Winter Street in Buffalo that was fitted with a geothermal system. Both lawmakers expressed their support for such systems as a means to let home and building owners realize significant savings in monthly energy bills.

Ortt, whose district includes urban and rural residents, pointed out that many of his constituents live in areas that do not have convenient access to heating sources and must have fuel delivered, thus playing a part in driving up their heating bills.

"This tax credit doesn't just impact a pocket within the state," said Ortt. "It doesn't just affect people here in the City of Buffalo. It affects people in urban areas and, particularly for me, in rural areas where heating your home can be very expensive if you don't have access to natural gas. This is a clean, environmentally-friendly way, and it saves money."

It also generates jobs, Ortt added, for workers who would design and install the systems for clients.

A federal tax credit also exists for the installation of geothermal home systems.

While the state has actively promoted solar and wind power as sources of renewable energy, Ryan, Ortt and Nowak all noted that geothermal energy is equally important in cutting the carbon footprint.

"Heating our buildings is 35 percent of our greenhouse gases in New York State," Nowak said.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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