Community College of Phila taps geothermal energy

    Community College of Philadelphia is fighting against high energy costs. The college’s new building in Northeast Philadelphia will stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer thanks to the increasingly popular power of geothermal energy. WHYY’s Bill Hangley has more.

    Community College of Philadelphia is fighting against high energy costs. The college’s new building in Northeast Philadelphia will stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer thanks to the increasingly popular power of geothermal energy. WHYY’s Bill Hangley has more.

    Photo: Estimated subterranean temperatures at a depth of 6 kilometers, source:United States Department of Energy

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    While Community College officials broke ground for a building that will double the capacity of their Northeast Philadelphia campus, construction manager Gary Bixby’s gaze turned to the empty green field next door.

    Bixby: That field’s gonna get a lot of attention. We’re want to put about 220 wells – the wells are about 400 feet deep. What we do is we tap into the stable temperature of the earth, bring the water up into a system, and then circulate that into the building and use that to exchange the heat from heat pumps.

    Bixby says the geothermal heating and cooling system will save the college at least $200,000 a year. The cutting edge technology can be found in just a handful of buildings in the region. Engineer Robert Deemer is helping install a geothermal well in the Friends Center in downtown Philadelphia. He says it won’t take long for the $1.2 million system to pay for itself.

    Deemer: We looked at various scenarios for escalating energy costs, and depending on the future cost of energy, the payback could be less than ten to fifteen years.

    Deemer says geothermal technology is fine for residential use. But the $20,000 price tag is still too much for most homeowners.

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