SV board votes down geothermal system

October 30, 2019 Cranberry Local News

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HARMONY — Seneca Valley School Board voted against adding a geothermal system to the new elementary and middle school after determining last week that the system is too expensive.

Construction consultant Mike Corb of Cannon Design said the district's overall base bid for the school construction project is about $600,000 under budget.

“Which is a good place to be,” Corb said.

Corb reminded the board it is looking at several “add alternates” that would provide desirable details to the construction of both schools. Examples of these are improvements to security measures and better landscaping design.

“Add alternates would give the district the ability to accept some things that are really nice to have, but (are) not quite in the budget at the moment,” Corb said.

The proposed geothermal system — which would require a series of wells installed on the elementary campus to make the ground a heat exchanger for the building — would cost an estimated $1.4 million.

Payback for the district would take about 21 years. Corb said this time is nearly double what Cannon Design would recommend.

“It's not a cheap alternate,” Corb said. “It would probably be the only add alternate that you could afford to accept.”

Corb formally recommended the board vote against installing the system at this time.

Board member Fred Peterson said he was disappointed.

“We're trying to make every effort to make this school a teaching tool,” Peterson said. “It saddens me to hear this.”

Peterson asked if a hybrid system could be developed.

The system, according to design engineers, is scalable: The fewer wells installed, the lower the cost. A residential-sized system would cost $5,000 to $7,000 a classroom. This would allow a room or two to be demonstration areas to show students how geothermal systems work.

“Is this something that we could retrofit?” asked Eric DiTullio, board vice-president.

Engineers said rooms could be retrofitted, with some planning. DiTullio said he's interested in knowing more about a smaller system. He challenged the administration to find a suitable area in the new school for a demonstrative geothermal system.

In the meantime, the board unanimously voted down the system. Board president James Nickel was absent during proceedings.

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Samantha Beal

Samantha Beal