Township officials have gotten their first look at a new geothermal energy system that could produce significant savings as soon as the end of the year.
“For the past number of years, we’ve had a significant number of issues, and incurred some significant costs, in repairing the HVAC systems here,” said board Chairman Chuck Wilson.
Staff and the township supervisors have discussed since 2014 whether, and how, to replace the aging heating and air conditioning equipment inside the municipal complex at 1090 Troxel Road.
“There are numerous functional issues, including uncontrolled baseboard heating, persistent hot water piping leaks, humidity in the police building, imbalance issues, and general comfort,” Wilson said.
Last spring, the board voted to seek specifications on a geothermal system that could use water circulated underground to heat and cool township buildings, and Wilson said the goal is to cut down on the nearly 50 service calls and over $90,000 in maintenance costs over the past two years.
The board and public got a detailed look at the scope of that project Wednesday, as Dianne Herrin, director of energy programs for Philadelphia based Practical Energy Solutions, outlined the features of a planned HVAC renovation for the township’s administration building and the adjacent police station.
“We will remove the nine exterior condensing units that are all outside (both buildings). They will be gone, and we will remove the boilers, and centralize the equipment in the administration building mechanical room,” Herrin said
“We are also putting a backup boiler in, which you don’t always need with a geothermal system, but given it was sub-zero lately and the weather’s been a little crazy, we want to make sure you have the comfort you need,” she said.
Duct work in the ceiling of the current police station would be reworked, and air handling units currently located in the township admin building and meeting rooms would remain in place but be retrofitted, Herrin told the board. Two loop pumps and two well field pumps will connect both buildings to a 200-by-60-foot geothermal well field located behind the two buildings, with roughly 30 wells to be drilled in what is now a cornfield the township rents out.
“We did a test bore out there, and we planned to go to 400 feet initially, but we hit a lot of water and that can be a real mess,” said Herrin.
“We’re going to stop at 300 feet and drill more wells, so we’ll get the same effect with more wells, they just won’t be as deep,” she said.
The well field would be connected to the administration building via a horizontal bore roughly 150 feet long, which would be dug horizontally to cause minimum disruption to the parking lots above. An alternate included in the bid package would also include an electrical conduit running parallel to the bore, which the township could use to connect both buildings with electric lines to a solar energy array, if it chooses to install one atop the geothermal well field later on.
A trench will be needed between the meeting room and the police building to connect the water piping, Herrin told the board, and the savings from upgrading the equipment and connecting the buildings should be considerable. Total energy costs are projected to drop by roughly 30 percent, or $17,000 a year, and consolidating current systems into newer equipment is anticipated to save an additional $30,000 per year in maintenance costs, while keeping equipment inside instead of outdoors should help it last longer.
Finalizing the bid documents over the next 90 days would put the project on a timeline to put out for bidders, and select one, in May and June, and the construction of the system itself would take two to three months to bore the geothermal field and another three to four months to construct the equipment itself, meaning the project could be done by the end of 2018.
Total estimated costs for the project run to just over $1 million, before adding a ten percent contingency and additional engineering and bid management costs, producing a total price tag of roughly $1.2 million, Herrin told the board.
“Often times, what we find during these projects is, in existing buildings, we might run into something and say ’It might be nice to get that done too,’ like fixing some of your windows, and if you have a little extra in your budget you can do that,” she said.
Wilson said the township plans to cover cost of the upgrades by borrowing from its sewer capital fund, and last June the board authorized the interfund loan to do so. In the township’s 2018 budget, the sewer capital fund contained just shy of $2.4 million, an increase of roughly $400,000 from the year before.
The supervisors voted unanimously to authorize the release of bid specifications for the project, and supervisor Dan Littley asked that staff notify the local farmers who currently maintain the field where the geothermal bores will be located; Township Manager Rob Ford said he had already begun to do so.
“It’ll be nice to get into the 21st century,” said Littley.