Posted: January 01, 2013
Tech startup: Panterra Energy LLCBy Eric Peterson
INITIAL LIGHT BULB Then in the roofing business, Mike Ryan had lunch with Tom Myers, a colleague in the construction management, in 2011. "I was looking to do something different," Ryan recalls. "It sounds cliché and silly, but we scribbled on a couple of napkins and came up with a general idea of what to do."
That general idea became PanTerra Energy: a geothermal-heating company that operated like a utility, akin to a similar strategy that has been embraced by the solar industry.
"Geothermal is the ultimate renewable resource," Ryan says. Underground piping, a.k.a. the loop field, absorbs heat in winter and dissipates it in summer, making for a more efficient and stable heating system.
Ryan says geothermal is three to five times more efficient than stand-alone gas-fired heaters and can result in up to 60 percent savings on heating costs. "It’s a very efficient way to heat and cool your structure," he says. "It will save you money over time."
Ryan is now PanTerra’s president and Myers serves as VP.
IN A NUTSHELL "One of the problems with geothermal is the upfront cost," Ryan says. "We’re putting the loop field in the ground with no up-front cost." PanTerra maintains ownership of the system and sells access back to the property owner or the tenants via a "thermal purchase agreement" modeled after power purchase agreements that are in vogue in the solar industry.
Ryan says he is still working out the kinks of the model and hopes to install the first such system by summer. "We haven’t crossed the finish line on pricing," he says, citing a projected savings approaching 50 percent.
PanTerra also drills and installs geothermal systems with more traditional financing. "Collectively, we have over 50 years of experience in the construction industry," Ryan says. "We have 18 years of drilling experience. We can handle jobs of any size." Pricing typically begins at about $7,000, and systems can pay for themselves in eight years.
"The technology is proven," he adds. "It’s been around for decades. People are very happy with the systems we’ve installed. What we’re doing is making it more obtainable."
THE MARKET Ryan says PanTerra’s market includes most structures (commercial, industrial, municipal and residential) with heating systems, schools and prisons emerging as initial targets.
FINANCING Ryan says PanTerra will fund its first utility-model projects internally but will soon be looking for investors on a project-by-project basis. "Once we’ve proven the model, we’ll take it out to fund it for more projects."
where Englewood | FOUNDED 2010 | web www.panterra-energy.com
"The effect on comfort is tremendous. With natural gas or propane or heating oil, you typically are heating it up, shutting it down, and heating it up again. With geothermal, it operates best if you maintain a constant temperature."
– PanTerra Energy President Mike Ryan
Denver-based writer Eric Peterson is the author of Frommer's Colorado, Frommer's Montana & Wyoming, Frommer's Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks and the Ramble series of guidebooks, featuring first-person travelogues covering everything from atomic landmarks in New Mexico to celebrity gone wrong in Hollywood. Peterson has also recently written about backpacking in Yosemite, cross-country skiing in Yellowstone and downhill skiing in Colorado for such publications as Denver's Westword and The New York Daily News. He can be reached at Eptcb126@msn.com