Archive for Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Westar installing geothermal climate-control system at new service center

Paul Heitkotter, Westar's heat pump systems expert, explains how a geothermal heating and cooling system works.

August 13, 2008

Advertisement

Westar taps geothermal energy

The state's largest utility is digging deep for energy savings in Lawrence. Enlarge video

Workers with Evans Energy Development, Paola, drill wells Wednesday for an energy-saving geothermal climate-control system at Westar Energy's new service center, 746 E. 27th St. in Lawrence. At right is Pat Tryon, project architect for Westar Energy.

Workers with Evans Energy Development, Paola, drill wells Wednesday for an energy-saving geothermal climate-control system at Westar Energy's new service center, 746 E. 27th St. in Lawrence. At right is Pat Tryon, project architect for Westar Energy.

Officials at Westar Energy are pumping a little extra money into a new service center in Lawrence, with plans to save energy - and money - in the years ahead.

The Topeka-based utility, which provides electric service in Lawrence and elsewhere in Kansas, is including a geothermal climate-control system for its new $7 million service center, now being built at 746 E. 27th St.

The geothermal system will take advantage of heating and cooling capabilities buried beneath the Earth's surface. The system starts with a series of 42 wells, which are narrow holes bored 200 feet below the surface.

Even narrower plastic pipes are run down the length of each hole, and then extended back up to the surface, to create a closed loop that connects with a compressor at the service center.

Up to 1,000 gallons of water then is put into the pipes, to be circulated continuously. The water is used to control the temperature of a coil, which will be used to control the service center's office area.

Blowing air across the coil will create cool air during summer and warm air during winter.

Financially, the system will eliminate the need for a traditional air conditioner or a traditional furnace. Electric bills will be reduced to the point that the system's added up-front cost should be recovered within seven years, perhaps as early as five.

Officials at Westar say that they are including the geothermal system at the Lawrence service center to demonstrate leadership in using energy efficiently, a goal for the utility.

Electric usage is increasing faster than population growth, Westar's Paul Heitkotter said, and encouraging conservation and efficiency could help the utility defer its need for building a new power plant in the future.

Also, such efficiency can help customers save money, especially as the utility pursues approval of a rate increase with the Kansas Corporation Commission, said Laura Lutz, an account manager for energy efficiency.

Comments

LogicMan 9 years, 5 months ago

"42 wells"Those can't be cheap ...Five to seven year payback doesn't seem likely.

LogicMan 9 years, 5 months ago

"frankwiles (Anonymous) says:Actually geothermal heating and cooling works amazingly well. All of the systems I have researched have a 5-10 year pay back, depending mostly on how much your electricity and gas costs are where you live."Are you local? Electric and natural gas prices here have been reasonably, with the exception of natural gas spikes of late. What fuel costs did you use in your evaluation?

John Randtke 9 years, 5 months ago

I'm originally from the area, and I now work with an HVAC design company. There is a big difference between new construction and retrofit when it comes to payback. For a retrofit, where you're taking out an existing/working system to put in a heat pump, the payback might be more than 20 years. If you are putting a system in a new house or replacing a broken system, the "payback" has to cover the difference in price between the two systems. There is also a big difference between payback at a house and payback at a large building. 5 year payback could be possible even with relatively low rates.Also, for those interested, a heat pump doesn't work by blowing air over the water coil. The water feeds into a condenser coil (like the one outside your house for AC), and then air is blown across the evaporator coil. In the winter, the refrigerant lines are switched and the evaporator becomes the condenser, and vice versa.

frankwiles 9 years, 5 months ago

Actually geothermal heating and cooling works amazingly well. All of the systems I have researched have a 5-10 year pay back, depending mostly on how much your electricity and gas costs are where you live. They also typically have less maintenance issues and last longer than our current power hogs. I plan on getting one for my next house.

monkeyspunk 9 years, 5 months ago

Just finished looking at the page I just posted and noticed a section about state's offering incentives to use this technology.Well since Westar is Kansas' baby, perhaps since the "energy experts" are on board with Geothermal, perhaps the state should offer incentives for the rest of us to switch over if we want. I wonder how Westar and other utilities would feel about Kansas residents spending "50 to 70%" less energy on heating and "20 to 40%" less on cooling.Oh, I know what they would do, they would just ask for another rate hike...

OnlyTheOne 9 years, 5 months ago

"Officials at Westar say ....... to demonstrate leadership in using energy efficiently, a goal for the utility."And what the heck You and I are paying for it! Remember the "fuel surcharge" on your electric bill and the 15% rate increase they're asking for!

Commenting has been disabled for this item.

loading...