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Geothermal Energy on Horizon for Homewood Public Safety Department

The village board voted to give consensus to the Public Works Department to pursue a contract for the installation of a geothermal HVAC system in the Public Safety building, which would provide long-term savings.

Homewood took a step toward going greener at Tuesday night's village board meeting.

The Homewood Village Board agreed to give consensus to the Public Works Department to pursue negotiations for a replacement of the Public Safety building's current HVAC system with a geothermal system.

Geothermal HVAC systems work by using the natural temperature of the ground for heating and air conditioning as opposed to creating it with machines that rely partly on natural gas to operate.

The current Public Safety HVAC system is part of the original building, built in 1967.

"It is an aging system," Director of Public Works John Schaefer said. "We just lost a compressor ... if the second fails, there will be no air conditioning in the police department."

The decision to pursue a geothermal system instead of a rooftop HVAC unit came after a recommendation from Schaefer. According to Schaefer, the geothermal system is far more environmentally friendly than the other option, it would be easier to install than a rooftop unit and it would require significantly less maintenance than an alternative system.

The geothermal system would, however, be more costly—at least up front. But the investment pays off long-term, according to Schaefer. He turned the stage over to representatives of St. Louis-based company Control Technology and Solutions (CTS), the potential contractor for the new system.

A spokeswoman from CTS said that, while the initial cost is higher, it would even out in savings 10 years from now. Beyond that, the spokeswoman said CTS estimates a savings of $600,000 by the 30-year benchmark, compared to the existing system. Additionally, a $90,000 grant already has been secured from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation. Another $30,000+ grant is currently being pursued from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

"I think the concept of geothermal is terribly exciting," Trustee Jay Heiferman said.

But Trustee Ray Robertson wasn't so excited. That's because, according to Director of Finance Dennis Bubenik, there exists a $100,000 shortfall in funds for the geothermal system. Robertson said issuing another bond was out of the question.

"I like the idea of geothermal, but, realistically, we can't afford that," Robertson said. "I think we're throwing the downtown plan out the window."

While the other trustees agreed with Robertson's unwillingness to issue another bond to cover the $100k shortfall, all board members besides Tom Kataras, who was absent, gave consensus in support of the geothermal system. Trustee Anne Colton cited the long-term implications of the decision as justification to spend more money up front.

"This is a long-term issue and I don't think you apply short-term thinking to long-term issues," Colton said. "If you look at a 10-12-year horizon, it's going to pay for itself."

Because the board voted only to give consensus, the project will be refined, financial issues will be sorted out and a contract will be presented for the trustees to vote on.

Linda T August 10, 2011 at 11:33 AM
You go Homewood! That is such good news! It's time for all government, from local to national, to be more future-focused. I certainly understand the concern about the upfront cost. However, in addition to being environmentally-sound, geothermal would provide long-term cost-savings as fuel costs continue to rise, which we of course know they will.
Walter August 11, 2011 at 04:37 PM
I'm a mechanical engineer working closely with a high end architectural office. I have always been skeptical at best about geothermal for homes. Over the past year, I have been introduced to some solid concepts a procedures for geothermal hvac technology, but I was still not ready to commit to the technology...primarily because it is so unregulated. When the architectural firm I work with came to me to design the mechanical for a large custom home, I scoffed at the prospect of geothermal hvac. The owner gave me a copy of this book (Geothermal HVAC) and asked me to skim it. This book is like a breath of fresh air in a vast wasteland...it addresses the real issues without presuming to have to teach the technical aspects, which in my opinion is the demise of any new technology, trying to teach the common do-it-you-selfer (such as I am often called) how to design and install something that should be left to a highly trained professional. Cutting to the bottom line, I've followed the guidelines in the book, and I am busier in this depressed economy than I've been in the last 15 years (I have currently more than 20 projects going valued in the millions). People really want this, and they want to be convinced that we know of what we're speaking. Brilliantly written, easy to read, and right on the money. Google "Geothermal Book"
Ryan Fitzpatrick (Editor) August 12, 2011 at 09:34 AM
Thanks a lot for the informative comment, Walter! I'll be sure to check it out.
Joe Bingham June 20, 2013 at 03:52 PM
Thermal energy is very much needed since we can't 100% of the time rely on solar, nor wind, energy. Though the alternatives to thermal are easier and simpler to use. Pretty soon it'll be what's powering everything, alternative energy. Can't wait! Maybe even a <a href="http://kingheating.com">homewood heating and air conditioning</a> system which in itself relies on thermal energy, that'd be awesome!

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