Keystone Science School gets into ‘hot water’
summit daily news
KEYSTONE – The Keystone Science School has always had a focus on sustainability, but the facility is becoming even greener this week.
In partnership with a local builder, a benefactor from Breckenridge and interest from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the school is installing a geothermal heat field that will help offset the energy needed to heat an 800-square-foot addition to the dining hall.
In best-case case scenario, the new heat exchange system will completely cover the energy needs of the expansion, said science school director Ellen Reid. The so-called slinky loop system will supplement a boiler for the dining hall. The project will not only help keep the school on a sustainable path, it could also be a model for other developments in Summit County, Reid said.
“We are so far behind in the county in utilizing renewable energy,” Reid said.
Builder T.A. Rosko, of Base Building Solutions, Inc., said he’s had preliminary discussions with researchers from the federal renewable energy lab who may monitor the system’s performance for the next for years. That would help provide viable data to show how much energy is being saved and help with the design of future systems, Rosko said.
Without that data, it’s hard to say exactly what the pay-back time is for the $45,000 system, but Rosko and part-time Breckenridge resident Sven Lundin, a key donor to the project, estimated the system will pay for itself in 10-12 years, depending on the price of oil.
“The concept has been around for centuries,” Rosko said, explaining that gaining heat from the ground is not exactly a new idea.
For the science school, Rosko excavated a pit about the size of a swimming pool, 7 feet deep. Last Wednesday, he and his team uncoiled several hundred feet of black PVC piping and the bottom of the hole and hooked it up to a pipe leading to the boiler in the dining hall.
After back-filling the trench with 7 feet of soil, the temperature at the level of the coiled pipe will remain nearly constant, even during the very coldest days of winter – as long as the installation is below the frost line, Rosko explained.
A solution of water and methanol flows through the loops and back to a heat exchange pump near the boiler. Rosko and Lundin said the returning solution will pick up about 5 to 8 degrees from the soil.
The science school installation contrasts slightly with other recent geothermal installations that use deeper injection wells, but the end effect is about the same, Rosko said.
“In the coldest time of year, this will supplement the high-efficiency boiler,” he said. During the spring and fall, the underground heat field may provide all the warmth needed, he added.
The underground pipe will last for a very long time, and heat pumps used for this purpose can have a 20-30 year lifespan, so including this type of geothermal system could make sense for a lot of projects and save energy and money for home and business owners, Reid said.
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