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Geothermal could fit Clinton

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ANN MARIE AMES
February 23, 2008
— The Clinton School District hasnít officially said itís going to referendum.

But the district got one more piece of the puzzle last night as it moves in the direction of expanding and improving Clinton Elementary School.


The facilities committee last night learned that Clinton schools could start saving thousands of dollars in about 10 years if it installed a geothermal energy system at Clinton Elementary, 301 East St., Clinton.


A geothermal system uses pipes to pump liquid deep underground. The average soil temperature below Clinton Elementary is 52 degrees, district Business Administrator Kathy Zwirgzdas said. So in summer or winter, the system would heat or cool the liquid and pump it back through the school to warm or cool it.


An electric-powered heat pump would supplement the system in the winter, Zwirgzdas said.


Geothermal costs a little more to build: $1.25 million versus $1.07 million for a conventional heating system. But depending on the way savings are calculated, geothermal will pay for itself in up to 11 years, Zwirgzdas said.


In 25 years, the district would spend nearly $1.5 million more to operate and maintain a conventional system than a geothermal system.


Itís very inefficient to heat and cool Clinton Elementary today, district Administrator Pam Kiefert said. It costs $1.34 per square foot; geothermal would cost 71 cents per square foot, she said.


ďWeíre very excited,Ē Kiefert said.


The district wants to work with the environment it has, Zwirgzdas said. In the past, the district had considered erecting a wind turbine, but that would take 22 years to pay off, she said.


Now that the facilities committee has seen the pros of geothermal, it will research the cons, Kiefert said. Among other things, the district will talk to Evansville, Fort Atkinson, Sun Prairie and Verona school districts, all of which use geothermal energy.



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