Geothermal Growth Offers New Options For Underground Contractors

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | November 2009 Vol. 64 No. 11
Astec has developed a special vertical drill designed specifically for the geothermal market.

"We looked at the market and concluded geothermal systems are the future of heating and cooling," said Vice President Jim Lynch. "We made the commitment to conduct the business professionally and that has been the key to your success. Growth has been steady and consistent."

To meet growing demand, the company established Rocky Mountain Geo Drill Inc. specializing in drilling, looping and grouting, said Lynch. In 2006 a further expansion added Geo Energy Services providing system design and engineering to establish the company as a complete design/build contractor offering turnkey services.

The majority of the company's projects have vertical loops, said Lynch, with about 30 percent with horizontal or pit loops.

"Required heating and cooling loads dictate the size of the loop field," said Lynch. “The site size and constraints dictate whether we have to drill vertically or if there is enough area we can install a horizontal loop field. Typically we drill vertically."

To date, the company has completed more than 400 geothermal loop field projects in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Utah and Nebraska. Many are large commercial projects. Expansion into Arizona and New Mexico is planned, Lynch said.

As 2009 winds down, business is good.

"After a relatively slow first two quarters," Lynch said, "the commercial geothermal industry is growing at a significant rate. New housing starts are still slow but the commercial projects are picking up at a good pace. Because Rocky Mountain Geo Thermal is the largest and most reputable geothermal contractor in the Rocky Mountain region with an excellent reputation, we complete the majority of the projects in the area."

In Moline, IL, QC Geothermal finds strong demand for geothermal systems in the Quad Cities area and other areas in Iowa and Illinois.

QC President Bruce Soukup said the company was in the heating/cooling business before it expanded into the geothermal market. For its first ground source heat pump job, a rented trencher was used to put a horizontal loop in the ground.

"We discovered an opportunity and developed a niche in the geothermal market," said Soukup. "The number of installations we do has increased each year, as energy costs became a greater concern, the more installations we did."

Soukup made the decision to invest in equipment to install loops rather than only sell and install system components.

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