BARRINGTON—Ultra Geothermal of Barrington was one of just six Granite State businesses honored at last month’s New Hampshire Business Magazine’s 2011 Lean & Green Awards in Portsmouth. For company President Melissa Aho, the award is just the latest milestone in a journey that began a little more than three years ago.
In 2008, Ultra Heating & Cooling changed its name to Ultra Geothermal and completed its transformation from a traditional HVAC company to a cutting edge clean energy firm specializing in geothermal installation.
“In 2006, when I joined Ultra Heating & Cooling as an employee, we did about 30-50 percent of our business in geothermal,” according to Aho.
“I started getting phone calls from people interested in geothermal who found our website,” she said. “We began hosting free information sessions once a month. They were very successful, with 20 or 30 people coming to learn about geothermal and tour our facility.”
Soon, Aho found herself accepting invitations to speak about geothermal for local communities like Barrington and Dover, as well as from student groups at the University of New Hampshire.
“Education is a life passion to me and is the best part of my job—and I do it free of charge!” she exclaimed.
“I am an advisor for the UNH Energy Club,” she said. “We work on a lot of projects that focus on energy. Last year the UNH organization known as WERC, designed a desalination project looking at ways to deliver water to desert communities. Ultra Geothermal was a sponsor of the project.”
Today, Ultra Geothermal has around 700 geothermal installations under its belt. “We do about 100 to 150 installations a year now,” Aho says. “Right now, we’re working on our fourth National Green Building certified home with Ridgeview Construction.”
Federal tax incentives for renewable energy and the high cost of home heating oil are driving more and more people to explore geothermal as an affordable alternative to fossil fuels. Homeowners who install geothermal heat pumps between now and the end of 2016 are eligible for a federal tax credit valued at 30 percent of the system’s cost.
Ultra Geothermal also offers additional savings to members of the Green Alliance, a local consumer co-op, in the form of a free electrostatic filter valued at $210.
A true believer in renewable energy, Aho incorporated solar power as well as geothermal heat and cooling into her own newly constructed home.
“The solar panels installed on my house by Waterline Industries have handled 100 percent of our power load since last December,” she reported. “My utility bill is $11.60 a month and that is all we have for bills, other than the mortgage.”
The home is only the second in New Hampshire to earn Emerald, the Nation Green Building Standard’s highest rating. Aho even launched a website – www.nhemeraldgreen.com – to show people how it is possible to build a sustainable and energy-efficient home without breaking the bank.
For this young entrepreneur, the future of energy is green.
“If oil prices continue to rise, the renewable energy industry will have a great response to try and fix things,” Aho said. “People will have a response to renewable energy.”