Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, engineer Pete Jefferson and the school's retrofitted heating and cooling system.
By Victoria A. Rocha | This article is reprinted with permission from ECT.coop.
It’s only the middle of the school year, but a new geothermal heating and cooling system installed at Palmer Ridge High School in Monument, Colo., last fall has so far earned a six-figure “A” in energy efficiency and savings for the school.
Two Colorado co-ops, Mountain View Electric Association, Limon, and Tri-State G&T, Westminster, gave the high school more than $190,000 in rebates for installing the geothermal system, said to be the largest in the state. The G&T’s portion of the rebate—$123,071—is the largest it’s given to date under its Energy Efficiency Credits Program.
In a comparison of November 2008 gas and electric bills between Palmer Ridge High School and another school with the same square footage, the savings are substantial: $16,047.61 versus $25,768.55, according to school records.
And a geothermal system retrofitted at an administrative building in the school district six years ago generated 61 percent in energy savings in its first year of operation, according to Jim Carter, the maintenance supervisor of the Lewis-Palmer school district.
“Based on that performance, we were very confident that the savings and proven technology would meet our needs,” Carter said.
Palmer Ridge’s geothermal system lies underneath the roughly 217,000-square foot high school. It boasts 200 wells, or “loops,” each drilled to a depth of 400 feet, that use electricity to move heat from the earth into the buildings.
For a sense of perspective, residential homes would use 2-3 loops, said Daryl Edwards, Mountain View’s member services manager. And a proposed geothermal system at the co-op headquarters under construction would use about 80 loops, he said.
Edwards said there are several aspects of the $7.8 million geothermal system that are serving the high school particularly well. For one, because the system’s pumps use electricity to move heat from the earth into buildings, there are no boilers or chillers, which freed up space for extra classrooms—and a garden on the building’s roof.
Mountain View has reported that geothermal systems are generating excitement among consumer-members. “Five years ago, we had one or two residential applications for geothermal heat; last year we got nine,” said Edwards.