THE GRANT APPLICATION:
Over a 10-day period in May 2020, we (Greg Nortz and Pat Nortz, brothers and owners of Otisco Engineering), worked day and night to through the Grants.gov and many other sites and prepared a comprehensive application for a COVID RAPID RELEASE Small Business Innovation Research Grant. The application was submitted to the US Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA). The application required writing 30+ pages of proposal narrative, completing dozens of online forms, creating budgets spreadsheets, and more…using our 70 years of combined experience to figure it out on the fly. The title we gave to our project/application is: Advancement of a Minimally Invasive, Economical, Easy-to-Install Geothermal Heat-Transfer Closed Piping System for Farmstead Applications (COVID Rapid Response). The category we pursued for the grant was for renewable energy for the benefit of small and medium sized farms. Our application applied ideas that we started developing in 2010 when we initially sought out a patent with the US Patent and Trade Office.
We had never pursued a federal grant and we knew we were up against university spinoff companies that are accustomed to seeking and receiving federal grants, so we thought our chances of being awarded the grant to be slim. To our surprise, in July 2020 we received an e-mail to contact a guy named Denis at the USDA. We made the call and Denis immediately said “CONGRATULATIONS.” After several additional initiation steps, including completing multiple forms, the grant dollars were ultimately awarded to Otisco Engineering in September 2020.
The project advances the in-ground geothermal “loop” as part of a geothermal heating and cooling system that Greg and I researched and developed between 2008 and 2012 and had installed to heat and cool a home in 2013. The system installed in 2013 is still in operation and, if desired by the owners of that home, can continue to operate for decades to come. The grant will enable us to advance the 2013 design so that it is easier and more economical to install, with the focus being for the benefit of small and medium sized farms. This design can also be applied to many types of buildings, including residences and small commercial buildings. Under the grant, we are collaborating with Copia Farm near Johnstown, Ohio (https://www.copiaohio.com/). Copia is a small regenerative farm. The owners operate an on-site store that sells local, high-quality pasture-raised eggs and chicken from their farm and other food products from the local farm community.
On February 10, 2021, we completed and began operating the geothermal system using our “ground-loop” design to heat and cool the home on the Copia Farm. Check out the photos and Youtube video of the installation. The system will be monitored for temperature, electrical consumption, and fluid flow rate in the closed loop system. Those measurements will allow us to measure the net energy savings by the geothermal system. The energy data will be displayed at the Copia Farm store.
WHERE DOES THIS APPLY?
We believe that organizations such as Metroparks, rural office buildings, homes, and commercial buildings in locales absent of natural gas distribution systems (where heating costs are high) may want to consider the use of geothermal heating and cooling. Our system works well in retrofit situations, that is situations where there is an existing building. Although the grant came from US Department of Agriculture for the benefit of small and medium sized farms, our approach for the Copia project can be applied to most small and medium sized buildings (say less than 7,000 square feet) that need heating and cooling.