Learning From the Ground Up 

HEET formed the Learning From the Ground Up (LeGUp) research team to collect data from the first utility-led installations of networked geothermal in Massachusetts. The team will develop technical, scientific, equity, and economic reports to inform the scaling of this technology and create a pathway to decarbonize natural gas heating throughout the country. 

HEET first pitched networked geothermal as a clean heat business model to gas utilities in 2017. Now, the two largest utilities in Massachusetts are moving forward with networked geothermal demonstration installations to provide non-emitting heating and cooling to residents and commercial buildings. Across the country, utilities, municipalities and policymakers are moving forward on networked geothermal feasibility studies, legislation to allow gas utilities to become thermal utilities, and more. 

Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, a state economic development agency that funds climate solution innovations to meet the state’s emission reduction goals while growing a clean energy economy, awarded HEET a $5 million grant for the multi-year research effort. MassCEC is engaged with HEET to monitor the impact of the research and identify additional opportunities to promote Massachusetts’ climate goals. 

The Team 

The Learning From the Ground Up (LeGUp) research team at the site of Eversource’s first utility-run networked geothermal installation.

The LeGUp team is made up of top scientists and experts from across the country, including researchers from: 

  • National Renewable Energy Laboratory
  • Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory 
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology 
  • Salem State University 
  • Buro Happold Engineering 
  • Boston University 

Research Areas and Outputs 

LeGUp researchers gathered in Boston in early June, 2023, to prepare for data collection networked geothermal installations in MA. 

The LeGUp research team will: 

  • Provide feedback on the design and deployment of networked geothermal projects
  • Develop models of system installation and operation
  • Identify cost drivers and barriers to adoption
  • Recommend opportunities to improve efficiency, equity, and integration of networked geothermal with other services 
  • Develop data-driven recommendations for scaling networked geothermal throughout the state 
  • Start a networked geothermal public data bank, a collection of normalized, shareable data from each installation to facilitate learning and replicability.
  • Launch a feasibility study program to help interested communities explore networked geothermal as an option for decarbonizing
  • Document and disseminate findings through reports, media (academic, industry, and general), stakeholder engagement, and educational materials. 
  • Evaluate the impact of transitioning from natural gas to networked geothermal on human health and wellbeing, methane emissions and the environment.
  • Examine impacts on low income and environmental justice communities and provide recommendations on how to best distribute benefits.

Research will be carefully designed to supplement National Grid and Eversource’s own measurement and verification processes of their projects.