Comment 28531

By BIG WOW (anonymous) | Posted February 08, 2009 at 12:09:28

The wow comes from the audacity of anyone thinking they've made an impression by glassing in the front porch.

May I humbly suggest a real wow, for city hall and all civic properties, and beyond? One that could build a local industry, develop a newer green technology and save energy (money) in the long run? One where individual citizens might easily see the benefits for the city and themselves? And one where some local businesses (and here I admit a conflict of interest- I have relatives in this business so you should check the facts for yourself) have developed some expertise generally ignored by civic leaders.

My suggestion is to dig up the forecourt and parking areas surrounding city hall to lay piping for geothermal heating and cooling. Repave and re-sod these areas of course, and do the rooftop and other energy-saving upgrades too, but though up front costs for these other upgrades are lower, none will be as cheap or efficient in the long run as going geothermal.

The technology is well developed and proven. Below the frost line the earth maintains a constant temperature above freezing and below surface temperatures. It takes much less energy to turn a motor to pump heat back and forth than to heat an element or burn carbon-based fuels. The major expenses come from drilling and trenching but underground pipes last for decades, while even high-efficiency furnaces last little more than one decade. Break-even on the initial investment takes a while but once met the savings endure.

It is cheaper to lay horizontal trenches than to drill deep, so buildings surrounded by open spaces, such as schools and other public buildings, are prime candidates for this upgrade. But there's more. Local government owns the parks and other open spaces where geothermal piping could be installed, the hot and cool air sold to surrounding homes and businesses through a public utility like Horizon. Bodies of water, from the lake and bay and even small lakes maintained by local conservation authorities are the cheapest places to put geothermal pipes. Less digging required. We should at least be studying the environmental impact on plant and wildlife species at these locations.

Public utilities are also in a position to extend credit for properties remote from municipal locations where expensive vertical drilling is required, as I understand some U.S. utilities are presently doing. Geothermal heating and cooling is generally so efficient that the monthly payments for of operation AND long-term financing at rates profitable for the lender can still be cheaper for the borrower than current alternatives.

There it is. It's local infrastructure, and should be eligible for funding from senior levels of government to create local jobs lasting well beyond the immediate recession. It saves money for communities and property owners AND cheap heating and cooling is an attraction for businesses to locate in the area. Geothermal is green, putting less carbon into the air even if the electricity required to run it were derived from coal-fuelled generating plants, which does not HAVE to be the case. Also, some local companies have developed expertise by successfully installing systems around (mostly outside) the city for a number of years. Finally, there's a role for local government and utilities to quickly put shovels in the ground, and for colleges to train more installers.

Quick action on a project like this might be worthy of a wow or two.

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