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A Michigan County Unearths Savings with Geothermal Energy

January 22, 2013 - 9:55am

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Kent County Correctional Facility is saving energy and money with a new closed-loop geothermal system. | Photo courtesy of Kent County Administrator's Office.

Kent County Correctional Facility is saving energy and money with a new closed-loop geothermal system. | Photo courtesy of Kent County Administrator's Office.

Looking at the Kent County Correctional Facility in Michigan you would never know that underneath the complex is a technology that is saving taxpayers on average $100,000 a year. 

As part of a renovation building project -- which began in 2008 when voters approved funding to update a portion of the county’s correctional facility that was constructed in the 1950s and 1970s -- the county decided to install an energy-efficient geothermal heating and cooling system using $1 million from the Energy Department‘s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) Program.

Located below ground where temperatures remain constant (around 55 degrees Fahrenheit), the new closed-loop geothermal system extracts heat stored in the earth to heat and cool the building. The 96-well system uses temperature-controlled water that is pushed through pipes into the building to maintain an efficient temperature. The geothermal system has 2,400 MBH (thousands of Btu/hour) of cooling capacity and 2,270 MBH of heating capacity -- roughly the amount needed to heat and cool 45 energy-efficient homes. The new facility’s geothermal system, which operates 24 hours a day 365 days per year, is expected to save the county an average $100,000 annually and results in a 10-year payback.

Kent County chose geothermal energy after it found success using the same technology at the 63rd District Courthouse -- the only other county building that uses a renewable energy heating and cooling system. The county continues to examine ways in which it can reduce energy consumption and cut or avoid costs at other facilities. 

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