November 26, 2014

Elyria
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Cost of going green for EHS

School officials want to add geothermal system that cuts energy costs

ELYRIA – Elyria school officials are considering spending big bucks for a heating and cooling system for the new Elyria High School in order to save on energy costs in the future.

STEVE MANHEIM / CHRONICLE
Superintendent Paul Rigda talks about a green Elyria High School.

The state-of-the-art geothermal system will cost about $1 million.

John Sanner of Regency Construction, the EHS project manager, said during a school board meeting Wednesday that the geothermal system would be the costliest up-front portion of any energy-saving program at the new high school, though it would likely pay for itself with reduced heating and cooling costs within three to five years.

The geothermal system uses the fixed temperature of the ground – about 55 degrees, regardless of the season – to regulate building temperatures, cutting down on use of natural resources, operating costs and maintenance costs.

On Saturday, engineers will drill a test hole of sorts to see if the soil at the EHS site is conducive to geothermal energy.

If the results are as expected, a geothermal system could be installed at the new EHS, which would entail drilling 250 to 300 holes – each about 300 feet deep and about 6 inches in diameter – in the ground around the building and filling them with pipes and a special liquid, creating a system that would regulate temperatures inside the new high school.

Elyria Schools Superintendent Paul Rigda said the geothermal idea wasn`t part of the original EHS plan that Elyria voters passed in May because it wasn`t on the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission`s radar.

Collaboration between Elyria Schools and OSFC on the geothermal system is a work in progress – but it shows huge promise, Rigda said.

“We were almost pushing them to allow us a few extra dollars for this,” Rigda said.

Rigda said that OSFC has ultimately agreed to help fund the geo-thermal project in the same way it helped fund the new high school. That means the state will pick up $600,000 of the system`s total bill, roughly $1.6 million.

Rigda said the EHS project has a number of options available to pay for the project and the cost savings are a certainty.

Elyria Schools could borrow money against what it projects to save on energy in the longrun, or, more likely, it can use interest gained on the $45 million in bond money that hasn`t been used for the project yet.

It could also use contingency funds, essentially any unforeseen savings on the EHS project, such as when a series of construction bids come in lower than expected.

The geothermal system also could help certify the new EHS in LEED – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a environmental certification process for energy-efficient or green buildings.

Sanner said EHS project planners are aiming for a silver or better certification in LEED, since it`s the mid-level among five levels of LEED certification.

“It would be huge cost savings,” Sanner said. “And it`s an attainable goal.”

Contact Shawn Foucher at 653-6255 or sfoucher@chroniclet.com.