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Oklahoma’s Geothermal Industry Lobbies Washington For Tax Credit Extension

Dan Ellis with Comfortworks Inc. explains the installation of a geothermal heat pump at the Gulfport Energy Corp. headquarters in Oklahoma City.
Brent Fuchs
The Journal Record
Dan Ellis with Comfortworks Inc. explains the installation of a geothermal heat pump at the Gulfport Energy Corp. headquarters in Oklahoma City.

Several Oklahoma businesses are joining a national energy trade group to lobby Congress to extend tax credits for renewable energy.

Representatives from the geothermal heat pump sector want an extension of tax credits that are set to expire in December. Members of the geothermal industry say extending the tax credit will allow their businesses to keep growing.

Comfortworks chairman Dan Ellis says tax credits allow his customers to pay for his systems quicker. Otherwise, it is hard to convince potential buyers to spend hundreds of thousands dollars upfront on a geothermal system.

Ellis and Geoexchange president and CEO Doug Dougherty joined several people in Washington, D.C. last week to ask Congress to change the language so that projects that are under construction will qualify, The Journal Record’s Sarah Terry-Cobo reports:

Dougherty said the solar photovoltaic and large wind industries received an extension for their tax credit program in December 2015. He said he thought the geothermal sector would be included in the extension package, but it wasn’t. “We just want parity with solar,” he said. “And we want a change in the language from ‘placed in service,’ to ‘commenced.'” He said he’s optimistic they’ll get the extension passed in the lame-duck session when Congress returns on Dec. 9 after the Thanksgiving recess. He said Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and Nancy Pelosi have pledged support. Part of Oklahoma’s delegation, including Sen. Jim Inhofe and Rep. Tom Cole, is also on board, Dougherty said.

Dougherty says Oklahoma is considered the epicenter of the geothermal heat pump industry. On Friday, Ellis’ workers were putting the finishing touches on a geothermal heat pump at the new headquarters of Gulfport Energy Corp.

The geothermal heating, ventilation and air conditioning system costs about $3.5 million, slightly more than 10 percent of the building’s cost. A network of pipes is connected to 170 500-foot deep bores, which recirculate water through the ground and into a heat exchanger system. The heating, ventilation and air conditioning pumps were made in Broken Arrow. The drilling rigs used to bore the holes are made in Enid. The high-density polyethylene pipes were made in Oklahoma City. Dougherty said the tax credit is needed to help shorten the payback period for the projects. One project in Oklahoma City could have a 1.7-year payback with the tax credit and a rebate from the local utility. Otherwise, the payback period would be about 22 years.

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Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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