Champaign schools will get grant for geothermal systems

Champaign schools will get grant for geothermal systems

CHAMPAIGN – The Champaign school district is getting nearly a half-million dollars to help pay for geothermal systems at three elementary schools.

The district learned it will get a $481,000 state grant through the Illinois Energy Plan, which aims to invest in development of renewable energy resources, energy efficiency projects, biofuels and other "green" technologies.

The grant will help pay for geothermal heating and cooling systems the Champaign district is putting at Westview, Bottenfield and Robeson elementary schools. The cost of those systems is $5.1 million, and they will provide air-conditioning to those schools.

The geothermal systems will save an estimated $965,000 over 20 years on energy costs, said Gene Logas, chief financial officer for the Champaign school district. The district should also save money on maintenance costs of the current 40-year-old systems, he said.

The district has already installed a geothermal system at Garden Hills Elementary School, and it will be putting in a system at the new Washington Elementary School as well. It got a $90,000 Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation grant to help pay for the system at Washington school.

The district is also updating its energy system at Kenwood Elementary School with high-efficiency boilers and chillers.

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John O'Connor wrote on December 08, 2010 at 9:12 am

It's a good thing the mayor doesn't have authority over the school district or he probably would have tried to reject this grant like he tried to reject the broadband grant.

selguy wrote on December 08, 2010 at 12:12 pm

The state government is not as financially strained as we thought.

wrobinson wrote on December 08, 2010 at 1:12 pm

Lets see it costs $ 5.1 million to install the geothermal systems and they save an average of $48,250 in energy costs per year (i.e. $965,000/20 years). That means this investment will payback in 105.7 years. These systems only have an life expectancy of no more than 20 years so in summary the School District will invest $5,100,000 to save to save $965,000. I'm not a financial adviser but it doesn't take much sense to know that this is not a wise use of public funds just to be "green".

tm599 wrote on December 23, 2010 at 11:12 pm

The mechanical system was likely in need of replacement, so the district had to make a decision about which type of system they would install to replace their old system. They could have chosen a much less efficient system that had a lower purchase cost but higher energy costs. It looks like the grant helped cover the higher initial cost of a more efficient system. The energy savings only have to justify the incremental cost of the more efficient system. If you were replacing your home furnace because it no longer worked, and you had two options, a more efficient system or a less efficient system, you would figure out how much the more efficient system would save you over the less efficient one to see how quickly you would get your money back from buying the more efficient system, not the entire unit, since you obviously have to purchase something to heat your home.

Burnsie wrote on December 08, 2010 at 2:12 pm

wRobinson beat me to it. 100+ year payback, I'm glad there not running a busniness.