In Framingham, Massachusetts, there is not much to see for the commissioning celebration that Eversource is hosting today, but that is a feature of this clean energy technology. With its pipes and boreholes five feet below the pavement the focus is instead on the beautiful day, the trees, the people coming together. As it should be.

HEET, a climate nonprofit, first pitched this energy system, known as networked geothermal, as a clean heat business model to gas utilities in 2017, beginning a seven year journey. In 2018, HEET hired Buro Happold Engineering to do a statewide technical and economic feasibility study for this Gas to Geo decarbonization pathway. After the results were shared in 2019, Eversource Gas requested permission from the Department of Public Utilities to pilot the technology. In 2020 the Commonwealth granted that permission just as we all entered a global pandemic.

Eversource led the way on design firm selection, site selection, customer recruitment, test borehole drilling, design, permitting, and finally groundbreaking last June. “Networked geothermal is one of the many innovative technologies that can help achieve the commonwealth’s decarbonization goals and advance a clean energy future,” said Eversource Vice President of Clean Technologies Nikki Bruno. “We’re incredibly proud of our collaboration with the forward-thinking leaders at HEET on these efforts.”

The City of Framingham, selected as the first site among many competitors, has shown the way with thoughtful municipal and community leadership throughout the process. “The City of Framingham recognizes the critical role that innovative clean energy technologies will play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, advancing long-term energy security, and providing direct benefits to residents and businesses,” said Shawn Luz, Sustainability Coordinator at Framingham. “As part of our ongoing efforts to advance local sustainability and resiliency, we are proud to collaborate with Eversource and HEET in the development of networked geothermal in Framingham that will support our community and pave the way for the future of this technology in the Commonwealth and across the country.”

In the meantime HEET spread the idea across the country and launched a multi-year research team to better understand and optimize the technology. Today there are laws passed permissioning a Gas to Geo decarbonization pathway in New York, Colorado, Minnesota, Washington state, and Maryland with many more in the works. There are twenty-four gas utilities convening regularly to discuss this possible future. There is national support from multiple workforce unions. There is a network of climate advocates. Most remarkably all of these stakeholders are working together towards a common goal.

HEET’s Learning from the Ground Up (LeGUp) research team, thanks to funding from Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, is racing to provide more data to all these decision makers. Participating institutions include Boston University, University of California Berkeley, UMass Lowell, National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Today as we celebrate the commissioning milestone, our science team is celebrating the temperature sensor instrumentation of fifteen boreholes distributed throughout the installation. We are ready to begin a multi-year recording of the ground temperature hundreds of feet down. Another first, this monitoring and research plan will be informing researchers across the globe on how best to optimize geothermal network design and management as well as what the potential of this technology is to resolve building decarbonization while addressing long duration energy storage and improving resilience, affordability, and health.

This past year of construction the HEET team, the City of Framingham, and Eversource together with their contractors including the drill teams from Celsius, MWGeo and Berkel and so many more have all worked side by side to get us to this day. Every leg of this journey has brought more people into the story – and that is what you can see clearly in Framingham today. The pipes are five feet below but above ground it is clear those pipes have brought together more than buildings.

“It is inspiring what we can achieve when we work together, and this is just the beginning!” said HEET Executive Director Zeyneb Magavi. “HEET is committed to ensuring we have the transparency and trust, the data and science, and the people and policy we need to get us to zero-emissions while improving our health, our economy, and growing good jobs. Today we have shown we can build a future we can be proud to leave to the next generation.”


This story does not end today. In 2022 HEET was awarded a  Department of Energy Community Geothermal Grant to design an expansion to this first install together with Eversource and the City of Framingham. HEET’s work is always carried out without any contribution from utilities, utility personnel, or the fossil fuel or geothermal industries and we deeply appreciate the funders and donors that make this possible.

This article was originally published by HEET on June 4, 2024.