News Eagle - Hawley, PA
  •  Students get close look at energy project

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  •  Managing Editor Did you know that if you sat still in the bleachers at the Wallenpaupack Area High School gym all by yourself, that in 20 minutes, all the lights would go off, except one above your head??This is just one example of the how energy is being saved across the School District. Last week, a group of 11 High School students who have expressed an interest in engineering, got a close-up look at how the new energy system operates.?Leading the tour was Robert Rozema, Director of Building and Grounds. He took the students deep inside where few ever tread, the inner workings that make their schools cool on hot days and cozy when there is a chill in the air.?Two years ago the District spoke to PPL about utilizing the temperature conditions in Lake Wallenpaupack for a geothermal heating and cooling system. PPL reported back that this would require a change to their federal operating license, and would be cost prohibitive.?Instead, the District chose a system of 100 geothermal wells, drilled behind the High School and another field of 150 wells drilled behind the North Intermediate School. McClure Company was chosen as the contractor. The $12 million project was conducted over the summer of 2012, impacting the entire School District.?For the students’ benefit, he explained how a host of specialty fields worked together, including electrical, plumbing and geothermal engineering, and computer technology.?The High School, which opened in 1964, has since been expanded nine times, causing a disorganized array of heating and cooling infrastructure and no central controls. The new system brought about a major upgrade in efficiency, with not just the High School but the entire School District monitored and controlled with the click of a computer mouse.?The upgrade included replacement of heating/air conditioning roof units, a new roof for the Middle School, completely new lighting fixtures throughout and improvements to each building’s exterior “envelope” to stop drafts. Gymnasiums, cafeterias, rest rooms, locker rooms and hallways are on building sensors. Parking lot lighting at the Middle School is also on a sensor, as a test project.?Students were taken to the drill field near the North Intermediate School, where wells are still being drilled. Wells were sunk 20 feet apart. The entire well fields will be re-seeded, without anything showing what is underground.?It was tight quarters in the mechanical rooms at the High School and North Primary School, but students had a chance to see the heat pumps and hear an explanation of how the natural heat of the earth and the temperature of the air are drawn in and utilized to keep the students’ classrooms at just the right temperature.?All this is done without burning fossil fuels. Rozema pointed out that the buildings had used electric heat before, but that electricity had been generated somewhere, creating emissions. To top it off, the School District took this environmental approach while actually saving money and not using a dime of new taxpayer money. McClure Company, by law, guarantees the projected financial savings over a 20 year contract period. Those savings are paying for the project and if the savings are not fully realized, McClure must pay the difference.?Rozema noted that is why the contractors’ engineers work to be right the first time, so not to waste their employer’s money.?One student, Brandon, expressed his amazement that the control came down to one computer, which Rozema has in his charge. The computer system automatically alerts Rozema with a text message if there is a problem, and a cell phone call if it is a crisis. Rozema is able to tell where the problem is occurring.?He showed how the computer provides him with detailed facility maps. Rooms are color-coded to show how the system is doing.?Redundant systems are set up to keep the buildings functioning.?A repair technician can use his I-Pad, he said, to shut off a faulty unit. He says it takes 45-60 minutes now to replace a fuse rather than as much as four hours in the past, when a repairman had to climb up and down ladders several times to find the problem and what to do.?A Wallenpaupack graduate, Matt Holbert, is an engineer for NRG Controls North Inc., the supplier of the computer system for the energy project. Holbert worked on the project for his Alma Mater.?Staff has been educated on the importance of energy conservation. Rozema told the students that it comes down to, “The best power saver is to shut it off.”
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