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Episode 39 Transcript: Geothermal: The Pool's Underground Heater

This is the transcript for Episode 39.

Episode 39 Transcript: Geothermal: The Pool's Underground Heater

MOLLY WOOD (Voice Over):
Welcome to Everybody in the Pool, the podcast for the climate economy. We dive deep into the climate crisis and come up with solutions. I'm Molly Wood.

This week, I’m going to stick with talking about energy if you don’t mind. Last week, we talked about the investments and innovations we’ll need to transition to using renewable energy, electrifying everything, and still having power distribution that can handle all of that, not start fires, and keep the lights on.

This week, I want to talk a little bit more about the renewable energy part. Because the default when you hear those words is to think wind and solar. Some people who are deeper into this are thinking hydroelectric, and maybe a very few people are thinking geothermal. I see you, my nerds.

Geothermal energy is created by harnessing the heat from underneath the Earth’s surface, which is at a constant temperature, and using it for heating and cooling. It’s a basically infinite source of energy as long as you can get to it efficiently. It’s renewable because it’s just down there—no burning dinosaur juice to produce it. And unlike wind and solar, it’s not intermittent. That is, it’s there all the time.

I know, right? More, please.

Well, it can be a complicated and expensive task to access and deploy geothermal energy, but it’s one that’s getting easier all the time. And the Inflation Reduction Act gave it a REAL big boost.

This week, let’s talk to one of the people who’s getting it out there.

My name is Mike Rector. I'm the president of Brightcore Energy, and we are a full-service energy efficiency finance and execution company.

MOLLY WOOD (Voice Over):
Mike himself, side note, is an amazing character. He’s a retired professional hockey player who played 15 seasons as a goalie with the New York Rangers. He’s won a Stanley Cup and an Olympic Gold medal, AND a silver medal, and is in the NHL Hall of Fame. And now, my nerds, he is one of US.

Brightcore is based in New York State, and its primary market is buildings that aren’t houses. Commercial buildings, federal buildings, schools—what you have by now heard us call the built environment. The company’s whole deal is to help building owners be more efficient WITH their energy use or transition to running on clean energy.

Energy is specifically in buildings.

Yeah, thank you. So we attack it from two ways: energy efficiency—and that comes in a variety of forms, which we'll speak about in a moment—and actually the generation of clean energy, and that is really exclusively through solar.

We started this company basically with three verticals. First is lighting, which is low-hanging fruit, and surprisingly, close to a decade now of being in business, we're still changing light bulbs, which really speaks to an overarching point. There's a lot of inertia out there. We do things the way we've always done them, and our job is to educate and do the analysis.

We're not a consulting firm, but we have to take a consultative approach and recognize that your building needs new lighting, or maybe you just changed it, but what's the next thing you can do? Well, can you generate on-site electricity in a clean manner through solar or use some kind of community solar where it's being generated elsewhere but you're purchasing it?

That's two pretty understood and commoditized forms of reducing your carbon footprint.

We did that, and we did it well, and we're still doing it well, but what we recognized is a huge gap in our lineup.

In the sense that if I'm changing out all the lighting in your building, I can save you up to maybe 50 to 60% of your energy draw for that portion of your energy bill, your lighting. But it really represents only 10 or 15% of the average commercial building's energy use.

So how do you address the bulk of this thing?

And we just weren't. Certainly, you can through solar, but solar represents maybe one out of 20 buildings is eligible to have solar on the roof. In an urban place like New York, very few.

Community solar has helped enormously in that regard, so you can have it offsite and be using it elsewhere.

But what we tried to tackle and have been having a great deal of success is the HVAC systems.

The heating and cooling of buildings represents 60 to 70% of the building's load.

And if you start chopping into that in terms of making it more efficient or finding some way of being renewable, you're finding the key to meaningful change.


MOLLY WOOD (Voice Over):
And that is what led Brightcore to geothermal—specifically, geothermal heat pumps.

Yeah, great question. So for all of these verticals—lighting, solar, and geothermal heat pumps—are our answer to that HVAC problem.

We'll get into the specifics of that.

I'm thrilled by it. I'm not an engineer, but it's just endlessly fascinating.

And the more we researched it, we didn't say, "Boy, we want to be a geothermal group." We just said, "How do we tackle this problem most effectively?"

And it came across as the most efficient means of heating and cooling a building with no demand.

If there's a better one out there, we will find it.

If it's commercially proven, we will deploy it.

But right now, this is what we have.

And so, on an operational basis, this is as good as it gets, but there are some hurdles.

Not every building is eligible for it, number one.

Number two, the applicability in certain areas is just limited.

Urban environments historically have been too difficult to do.

You need a sink for the heat, almost a football field for a normal commercial building.

And you certainly don't have that in a place like Manhattan.

So what do you do?

That's number one.

Number two is the pricing.

The upfront cost of the system has been historically quite expensive.


Because you're doing the mechanical room as you always do, but you're doing basically the radiator in the ground below the building or below the football field where you have that kind of thermal energy exchange, and there are almost two systems into one.

So both of those hurdles have been addressed really significantly in the last two years.

In the case of the technology and the applicability, we're doing a technological transfer. Europe is about two to three decades ahead of us, and this is the premise of our company.

We need to get scale.

We need to affect change.

How do you hit all these buildings?

You can't say one out of 30 buildings is eligible and feel good about it.

You have to say, "Every building we have to analyze."

And on specific merits, it may or may not pencil, but the field of opportunity has to be as great as possible.

And it is through these new technological progress.

Most of what we have is new ways of drilling.

So I have drill rigs that are smaller and can fit within.

Hold on.

I'm going to back you all the way up because now we're talking about geothermal, which means we need to start with a definition for people who literally don't know.

Like, there are people out here who are just finding out geothermal exists and is great for heating and cooling.

Yeah, I don't know, I'm big on basics.

So geothermal has become a big part of your business, clearly.

What does that, first of all, I'll talk about what this solution actually is.

Thank you.

Yes, and soon.

So before we can talk about what ground source heat pumps are, let's talk about what they're not.

And it's unfortunate because geothermal—the name suggests earth and heat—but there are really two types.

One is literally the seismic activity that we would associate with volcanoes out west of the United States.

Google's doing a lot of work here.

And it's extraordinarily deep drilling on the order of—it could be over a mile, you know, 5,000, 10,000 feet down, hitting hot rocks, if you will, that have steam that will either be naturally coming up once you expose it or enhanced where you put the water in, it hits the hot material, the lava basically, and creates steam.

Most of our generation, even nuclear, is some form of heat generation, moving water which turns to steam, which moves a turbine, which creates electrical current.

That's what typical geothermal is, and that's what we think about in volcanoes.

If there's a country associated with it, it's Iceland.

In the United States, you do have both.

The other form is ground source heat pumps, otherwise known as geothermal exchange, so it gets extraordinarily confusing.

We do not generate electrons.

We simply transfer BTUs.

We transfer heat and cold, depending on the season.

The confusing name really put that aside.

What we're talking about is: take your hand that's 90-some-odd degrees and put it on a cold piece of steel outside on a day like today in New York.

That cold piece of steel is probably 30 or 40 degrees.

I'm transferring my heat in my hand to that steel table, and the table's in turn cooling my hand.

We do this in the summertime.

You see dogs go under a shaded area and sit on a cooler spot.

We put ice packs on our head.

Heat transfer. Understood.

The ambient temperature of the earth about four feet down where we are here in New York is 55 degrees.

That does not vary.

So what does that mean?

It means the mechanical lift for a heat pump you can have.

There are air source heat pumps, and you're hearing a lot about air source heat pumps.

They're basically refrigerators.

They pull in air at whatever ambient temperature.

Normally in your house, it's 70 degrees.

They compress it, and they do their thing with the heat transfer that's able to be done by just natural thermodynamics, the physics of expanding and contracting gas.

And they pump in the cold air into your freezer, the slightly less cold air in your refrigerator, and blow out very hot air down the bottom.

Which is ironic because they're often in our house in the summertime when you're cooling and you have 140-degree air coming out the bottom.

But you see what's happening.

You're extracting the heat and you're putting the cold in one place because that's what you want.

We're doing the exact same thing.

It's a heat pump, and that heat pump works in two directions.

It can make cool air hot and hot air cold.

MOLLY WOOD (Voice Over):
These heat pumps require drilling wells to only about 500 feet, inserting U-shaped tubes that pump water or what’s called food-grade glycol to do this thermal exchange of heat and cold.

So even if they break or leak, they just spill water.

Mike says they last 75 to 100 years, and each well can be independently controlled.

And because of the tech breakthroughs he mentioned earlier, Brightcore has developed a product called UrbanGeo, where they design and finance these geothermal ground loop systems and partner with drilling and mechanical partners so they can actually retrofit buildings in dense urban areas for clean, geothermal power.

And here’s just one more explanation of why using geothermal heat pumps is so much more efficient.

There's different manifolds.

So if there's some kind of perforation, somebody goes out and digs a trench and they didn't realize it was there, yeah, we can turn off that and you're not—it's not a catastrophic loss.

And you can, they're in a series, so you can always add new ones or even connect buildings.

Getting for our field now, but just so you understand, this is a thermal exchange with the ambient temperature of the ground of 55.

Why is that important?

If you're using air source heat pumps, which are wonderful, they're electrical-based.

Something has to run this machine.

In the cold of the winter, when it's five below zero Fahrenheit out there, what are you doing?

You're pulling five below zero air into this heat pump, and you have to mechanically lift that from five degrees below zero to 70, or whatever you want, inside your home or your business.

That's a big lift.

That's 75 degrees you have to create.

If you have a similar building in the same area, you're pulling out in that same five below zero day, 55 degrees to 70.

It's a 15-degree lift mechanically.

So you're just using less electricity, less energy to hit that same mark.

Think about the summertime.

It could be 95 degrees and 90% humidity.

What are you pulling out of the ground?

55-degree ambient temperature.

It's free air conditioning.

So this is...


It seems bifurcated because you have the below-ground and above-ground, which it is, but it's really one system that can just turn directionally.

You're either supplying heat or you're supplying cool.

MOLLY WOOD (Voice Over):
That doesn’t mean that it’s easy.

It's so elegant and simplicity, of course, the application of it can be very, very difficult.

We're digging somewhere between 500 and 1,000 feet underneath the surface.

Funny things like stone rock, bedrock are the best thermal conductivity.

So I've had very sophisticated people saying, you know, we really like that, but we're on bedrock here in Manhattan.

We don't want to, you know, break your drill bit.

And it's actually the best.

Its thermal conductivity properties are excellent.

And the drilling, while going through hard bedrock, can be difficult, it's consistent.

What's very difficult is when there's fill and landfills, things like that, where it's unconsolidated and you have to change drill bits and becomes prohibitively expensive.


We do that upfront analysis.

We have very sophisticated software that enables us to see into the ground.

And not only do we know what's under there, ultimately you do a test well to make sure you know the numbers.

But we can understand where the utilities are.

And you think about a place like Manhattan after 200 or 300 years, there's water tunnels, there's communication, there's gas lines.

You have to be accurate.

MOLLY WOOD (Voice Over):
And then there’s the other thing Mike mentioned above—the tech transfer of innovations from Europe—which include this kind of inclined drilling that’s actually adapted from the oil and gas industry.

Time for a quick break.

When we come back, we’ll dig—har har—into how in the heck you sideways drill holes under buildings to access heat from the Earth’s core.

I mean.

It’s cool, right?

It’s cool.

MOLLY WOOD (Voice Over):
Welcome back to Everybody in the Pool.

We’re talking with Mike Rector, CEO of Brightcore, about geothermal heat pumps, accessing clean renewable energy from the earth in the middle of Manhattan.

Well, and that's where I want to talk about this.

It seems like one of the big innovations you mentioned earlier is that previously there was this idea with geothermal that you would have to have a football field's worth of land to store that heat.

Yeah, correct.

That's correct.

That's exactly right.

You need a thermal mask to get rid of it.

And so if I have a very small home, say a tool shed, maybe one borehole will work.

But if I have—you know, we just completed a new build in Java Street in Brooklyn.

It's a 750,000 square foot multi-use tower, two towers.

That requires a lot of load.

As you can imagine, there are 320 boreholes there.


So now you start working back and do the math.

If they're 20-foot at center, you're talking about a lot of land as these things move.

But what we can do is access basically a football field of thermal mass below grade, maybe 600 feet down.

But these things come into perforations on the surface, five and a half feet at center.

And we've truly done this with a remarkable degree of accuracy and success.

We put the perforations down a bike path at one university and were able to hit this thermal mass very far down.

Now, if you do not have that technological capability, both in terms of the rigs, hardware, and the software, and the knowledge on how to integrate them, you're going to look at that building and say, "You know, this is an urban setting, and there's just not a lot of mass there.

I'm sorry, you're not eligible for geothermal."

That's the applicability that I started talking about early.

That's where I get really excited because let's just say this is the best thing since sliced bread, and we put a couple of these things in there.

We will be happy, we will get paid, the client will be happy, and we will, in absolute terms, diminish the carbon footprint in these five buildings.

That does not move the needle.

When you think about the scale of the problem—and I say problem—about energy costs generally.


But carbon footprint that we are unfortunately experiencing the effects of.

We need to do this rapidly, and we need to do it at scale.

And hitting one or two buildings isn't going to do this.

So if you have technology that opens up the field, the market, the field of possibility, you're onto something very, very important.

You're putting the most efficient way to heat and cool a building not only in new builds like the Java Street project we did but in the retrofit market, which to me is the most exciting thing.

I can go inside a building or very close to a building and directionally drill, get that thermal mass, be able to affect the heating and cooling through the ground heat transfer, put in the mechanical room and the old mechanical room, and voila!

You have a building that might be 100 years old and has absolutely cutting-edge technology.

And just one more word on that, I mean, why are we going to Europe to do this?

Because we're about two to three decades ahead of us in this particular technology.

They've had high energy costs for a very long time.

This has been...

Oh, excuse me.

So we actually...

So we got the technology, and we actually opened up a Center of Excellence, an office in Stockholm, Sweden, where they are the leaders of this.

And a lot of the technology comes from the mining industry.

They wanted to find veins of minerals and everything else.

And you have to be...

Wait, what does that mean?

You're going to Europe to do this.

You're going to Europe.

That's where you got the technology or got it.

Extraordinarily accurate in your drilling in order to do this.

And you also have to have these unmanned crafts sometimes that can maneuver into very small areas to get at these veins.

And in a way, it's a perfect metaphor for us.

We have to be able to move these things in and be very accurate in order to add value to our clients.

And that is access to the mass below.

So this to me is particularly exciting.

That's the technological capabilities.

And we continue to push the envelope with the people that underwrote the ASHRAE standards.

The actual modeling software and algorithms that we use today in North America came from there.

And they have the next generation, and we're trying to bring that over.

So it's a wonderful partnership.

It's interesting the way you describe it.

It sounds like the difference between like deep oil well drilling and fracking.

In fact, even your hand like went a little bit sideways, right?

I was sort of imagining like, "Oh, okay, you're doing a little bit more of a sideways drill situation."

Yeah, exactly.

It is truly directional drilling.

And so we can fan these things out in different formations.

It gets very sophisticated and truly interesting where now we're using, if you can imagine this, the ground as a thermal battery.

Okay, so you have excess energy when you produce solar and you put it in a lithium-ion battery in your backyard.

We are now using the ground to preheat certain wells saying, "Hmm.

We know in 15-minute data intervals that there's a cold front coming in to the East Coast.

And tomorrow, the temperature is going to drop from 45 in the afternoon down to 8 degrees.

We better start storing."

And we can preload some of these holes with excess heat, understanding that they will dissipate slowly, but not so slowly that we don't have a bump in efficiency.

Now we can access that heat tomorrow afternoon at 3 o'clock when it's very cold.

Maybe the temperature outside is 10 degrees.

We've pre-loaded a lot of that energy into the ground, and it's an incredible thing.

The way that some of the utilities are talking is we always talk about energy, and this is energy truly, but this is more of a heat transfer.

The BTUs that you see on the top of buildings, throwing these things out, all that steam that's coming off the buildings in the middle of the winter, that's inefficiency.

That's wasted heat.

We boiled that water or we heated that thing one way or another, and now we're dissipating it.

We're capturing it.

It's a closed-loop system.

And as you add more boreholes, as you add other buildings into thermal energy networks, which truly can be miles long, there's a pilot project that's starting right now in Eversource territory in Framingham, Massachusetts.

It's brilliant.

And so they have, I think, over 150 homes hooked into this thing.

And just like you'd have a gas line running down your street, and Molly says, "Oh, you know, I'm going to connect to that."

Mike says, "Well, you know, my heater just broke.

I'm going to connect to that and put a new gas boiler in my basement."

They're saying, "I'm just putting a heat pump in my basement, and I'm connected to that thermal energy network."

The cost of the electricity does not go up and down like the market does.

It's not a commodity like gas.

It doesn't blow up.

It's very similar in terms of the structure underground.

But if there's a leak, there's not a problem.

It's water.

And the efficiency is spectacular.

These are long-term assets that the utilities are starting to make.

Right, that's a letter.

So if you can think of the kind of conflict that initially came into being with solar panels.

I put solar panels in my house.

The utility says, "Wait a minute, I've got all this infrastructure that I'm paying for, and you're not even paying me the price for your electrons that you're building on your roof."

And the utilities are leading the charge.

We're in Con Ed, and we go down the list of the East Coast, and all of these guys are thought leaders in this.

And they're saying, "What do we do?"

Because it's always a fear of a capacity issue.

You know, I was just...

I've got...

I'm 57 years old.

I've got kids in college and, you know, trying to explain to them, "You know, I did not have a computer when I went to college.

I didn't have a cell phone at some point.

You know, there were pre-cell phones."

You come to our house now, and there are three kids with four devices plugged in, myself included.

We draw a lot of energy.

I have two electric cars in my house, drawing a lot more.

We're more efficient about it, but we're drawing a lot more.

We just passed 8 billion people last year.

There's a lot of demand for electrons.

So if you can start to be more efficient with these things, it starts to make a meaningful difference.

And for the utilities, the peak across the year is going to start to occur in the wintertime.


Because more cars are being plugged in—EVs.


That's at the tailpipe, but that's still a drawl that wasn't there before.

They were using gas.

Now, they're using this commodity.

My house may have gone electric with an air source heat pump.

It's quite good, but it's not as efficient as ground source.

So if I could save another 25% going from air source heat pump to ground source heat pump, can you imagine what a utility would do to find 25% savings?

So they can own these thermal energy networks, and we can pay them a fee just as you have the gas network.

It's brilliant.

They start to modulate that huge spike in the wintertime that's going to start to occur because air source heat pumps will be on the coldest day of the year, starting to draw a lot of energy as currently the hottest day of the year does in the summertime when everybody turns their AC on.

So yeah, it's a really good place to be because you have the support of some brilliant people, and you know, I...


Truly, it needs to be said that most of the people that we're working with—the vast majority in the utility space—these aren't lazy people.

These aren't dumb people.

These are committed people that have a really hard job.

We talk about our competition is not somebody else that does what Brightcore does, somebody from another geo execution group.

It's inertia.

We have this big ship that's been building for hundreds of years.

This is how we heat homes.

This is how we fuel cars.

And now we're saying, "Boy, we have a problem.

We have to change things very, very quickly."

That's very difficult for all that sunken cost in the infrastructure and the way they generate electrons.

They don't want to put another gas peaker in there, God forbid, start using coal again.

How can we get that spike lower in the wintertime?

And they are leading the charge, and they've been incredible to work with.

MOLLY WOOD (Voice Over):
UrbanGeo has been available for about two years.

And in addition to tech advances, Mike says the policy and finance landscape has DRAMATICALLY improved in those two years.

There were two things that kept geothermal heat pumps from the marketplace in North America.

One was the applicability, which we've, I say, solved, but we're solving through the hardware—different rigs, different drill bits, different software that allows you to get very granular, and directional drilling things that allow you to get into areas you otherwise couldn't.

So the applicability has blown up.

We can do it in a retrofit market, we can do it in urban settings, and of course we can do it conventionally.

So that's thing number one.

Number two is the financing.

The IRA, the Inflation Reduction Act, has been a godsend.

It's changed what the conversation is in such a meaningful manner.

And part of that is just getting the word out there.

I mean, good, experienced engineering firms don't even recognize how big this thing is because they're not in the weeds every day.

But just to be clear, on the federal level, you have a 30% tax benefit if you're going to put in a ground source heat pump, which does not apply to air source heat pumps.

So I told you there were two aspects of this—the mechanicals inside and below the manifold in the ground.

The IRA applies to both, and the general number we use when we're talking to customers is a 40% diminishment on the capex on the front-end costs.

So 40%—why?

Because there's 30% off the bat and then another 10% or so adder if you use domestic content.


Understanding they want to get the industry going here, and that's a pretty easily hit hurdle.

So if I can knock 40% off your heating cooling system, you don't have to know what it is.

I'd probably have your attention a little bit.

And so now the cost curve, whereas 10%, 20%, 30% more than conventional, has started to become equal, and in some cases less.

And all of a sudden you say, "Well, that makes some sense."

But the true value of this technology is the operational expense and the longevity.

We just looked at a group that was operationally—same numbers going to both inputs and pretty easy to check—was going to be saving over a million dollars a year.

It was over a 700,000 square foot building with a big draw, but a million dollars a year starts to make some difference.

And in the process, they were cutting their carbon footprint by probably 40%.


That was just a gift.

That came to us.

We knew it was going to improve the financial landscape because of the incentive structure.

But really importantly, that 40% federal benefit that you get is stackable with the state and local utilities.

All the incentives that they have to offer can fill in another 5%, 10%, 7%.

So you're talking real money here, and it's...


It's a pretty robust incentive that we think will be here over the next five or ten years.

You know, it's not an unfunded mandate.

It's out there as a tax treatment.

So it's applicable to NGOs, to not-for-profits, I should be saying.

And so it's quite robust, and it's not going away tomorrow when a new regime comes in.

It's there.

Um, I would be remiss, especially as a former sports reporter, if I did not ask about your journey to Brightcore from Stanley Cup winner and Olympian and all of those cool things in the NHL.

But talk about, for people who don't know, your background and how you ended up in this field.

You had to know that was coming.

That had to be coming.

Yeah, I want to remind you, Molly, and your listeners, you're taking advice from a goaltender on two thermal capabilities, sadly.

I had a professional athletic career in ice hockey.

I was a goaltender for the New York Rangers for about 15 years.

Loved the job, took it seriously, tried to wrangle everything I could out of it, knowing that someday it would come to an end.

But I think every year that you play, you become more of that thing you want to be—that athlete.

And when the time finally comes to end, it is very bewildering.

You're a little bit without your North Star.

I knew where I was going to be, what I was going to have for dinner, how I was going to be prepared.

You just look across the 82-game schedule.

I know I'm going to be in St. Louis.

I know what I'm going to have for lunch.

I know what this team's about.

And the more you play, the better you got.

So when I left, I was one of 700 people in the world that could play at that level, and I loved it.

And I keep playing if my body would allow me.

I was injured, but at some point, at 36, you're going to be asked to stop.

And I always had an interest in the environment, just on a quality-of-life issue, but also just as a kind of practical matter.

It's pretty clear.

There's an equation there of limited resources, unlimited appetite.

Like I said, we just got to 8 billion people.

Americans probably have the largest resource kind of use footprint, and more than Europe and more than anybody in the Third World.

The problem is billions of people want to live like we do in America, and they have the right to do that.

But that resource demand is almost insatiable.

So we better start figuring out how to keep fresh water, clean air, and low-cost energy.

And efficiency is one method of doing that, of course.

So just on a practical level, I find a very interesting intersection between finance and resources.

So I read a lot.

I mean, across my athletic career, you're spending so much time.

You'll work out for two to four hours a day, and the rest of the time, you're just preparing for the game tomorrow.

You play the game, you fly back.

So I spend a lot of time just reading about resource issues, water quality, resource wars, the end of fossil fuels, all kinds of things.

And so I think I found a direction that I was pretty passionate about while my first career was ending.

I went back to school for two years at Yale, took a lot of classes at the Yale School of Forestry, which just was a brilliant place and full of possibilities because there was so much need out there.

And so much seemed to be happening at that time.

And that was 2004, five, six, and really the consciousness of what's going on for climate change was coming to the fore.

And so with a professor that was retiring there and a few people from the private equity world, we started a $100 million private equity shop that was investing in companies that in some way mitigated resource use.

Could be recyclers.

It could be creating a Barbie doll using less material.

There was some kind of resource play there.

And we had a lot of success actually in the couple of years I was there.


208, 210, but the economic downturn washed us out.

We were no longer funded.

And so we were going to start again in that space, but we had come upon a lot of project finance, and it really, it kind of caught my eye.

I'm not buying my own company.

I'm buying a technology and deploying it and sometimes financing it or sometimes letting other people finance it, but I'm creating a solve for an issue that's there.

And it's measurable, it's repeatable, it's scalable.

And I found it to be incredibly exciting.

So I had a small group that did essentially what we're doing here at Brightcore that was underwriting solar.

I met my two partners who had a larger vision and a great financial capability just in terms of that background—20 years of Wall Street.

And I said, "This is where I want to go."

So we started out with lighting, then with the solar, and now geothermal.

But that, you really ask more specific questions is, "Why?

Why were you even interested?"

And when I got done playing hockey, I joined a lot of NGOs, not-for-profit boards.

I had lived on the West side of Manhattan and looked at the Hudson River.

300 miles is the East Coast version of the Mississippi.

It's a really amazing thing.

But I mean, it was quite polluted, and fishing out of there at one point was illegal because of dioxins and all the, you know, the story kind of push and pull booms of river.

And you know, for years, industry would dump a lot of their refuge down there.

So part of the River Keepers' vision was to clean up this Hudson River.

That's the commons.

That's—you look at it, and it's beautiful.

I did.

People fish out of it.

They boat on it.

It's transportation, so all kinds of things.

It's sort of a microcosm of a lot of the environmental issues.

But one of the board members said, "You know, you seem like an odd environmentalist—a hockey player, an athlete.

I don't kind of get the connection."

And I was thinking, it's just a question that I had never been asked, so I didn't know how the heck they—like, what is an environment supposed to look like?

But I started thinking about it.

I think you actually do have a real connection, a real standing.

Like, I played on three Olympic teams.

I don't know one athlete that doesn't really commit to their health—what you eat, how you hydrate, your sleep.

You're anal about everything you put in your body.

I had a coach who used to say, "You know, your body's your vehicle to success.

It's your Ferrari.

Don't put watered-down, muddy gas in the tank of a Ferrari and expect it to perform.

Don't eat junk food.

Your health is your ability to reach your potential."

And you get a cold for two weeks of your life or five days of your life or two days of your life, and it happens to fall on that one day that that's your Olympic program, your life works over.

You're going to have a very, very hard time performing at your max if you don't have your health.

So in a sense, I think...


We all have that perspective.

Our health is our ability—it's the foundation of our existence and our ability to perform at work or on the hockey rink or the football pitch.

So, you know, there was a great line by the Nike founder, right?

Phil Knight, he said, "You know, if you breathe, you're an athlete."

You know, he's selling sneakers.

It's a good line.

I would say, "If you breathe, you're an environmentalist."

That's not a political statement.

There's not conservatives that don't care about clean air, clean water for their kids.

Whether you're conservative or liberal, you all care about it.

It's how you go about it that there's plenty of opportunities to fight there.

But I think we all care about this.

And so if you find ways that are meaningful, that move the needle, that can actually save you money, most people are pretty engaged.

And so, you know, the idea of what an environmentalist looks like or sounds like or needs to come from, I thought, was pretty curious and sort of got me to the point where, "Who isn't an environmentalist?"


MOLLY WOOD (Voice Over):
Sometimes the pool is a frozen-over pond that’s perfect for skating, and you want to keep it that way for your kids, and their kids, and the kids after that, amirite?

That's it for this episode of Everybody in the Pool.

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