PVREA’s new geothermal system earns a hefty Tri-State refund

A sign marks the new geothermal loop field, made up of 84 wells, to the north of PVREA’s headquarters.

A sign marks the new geothermal loop field, made up of 84 wells, to the north of PVREA’s headquarters.

Poudre Valley REA’s headquarters building was constructed in 1996.

Poudre Valley REA’s headquarters building was constructed in 1996.

Last year, at Tri-State system member Poudre Valley REA (Ft. Collins, Co.), necessity became the mother of invention.  It became clear that the aging air to air heat pumps which typically last for 16 years or so at the co-op’s headquarters was reaching the end of its mechanical life.

It was obvious that updating this aging system was imminent, and the board of directors agreed to a solution that would not only improve the comfort of the facility, but also be more in line with the co-op’s overall commitment to energy efficiency.

“One of the board’s goals was to be an example and to provide leadership for our members,” said Gary Myers, energy use specialist at PVREA.  Myers plans to continue sharing the story of this successful implementation with members and other energy professionals in the coming months.

Also called ground-source heat pumps, geothermal systems rely on stored energy from the earth for heating and cooling.  “The earth typically maintains a constant temperature of approximately 52 degrees,” Myers said.  “This consistency provides both cooling during summer months and heat during winter.”

The process for PVREA began with auditing and analysis of the building to determine the main issues and goals.  Then there was a load calculation to ensure proper sizing of the system.  The overall project included insulation and ducting improvements that worked hand-in-glove with the new geo system to ensure success.

With a plan in place, drilling of 84 wells, each 300 feet deep, began.  These wells draw up to 815,000 BTUs of energy from the earth.  “We chose vertical, rather than horizontal wells, as they typically make a better connection with the earth,” said Myers.

Once the geothermal wells were drilled and piped, a 195-ton crane was used to hoist 12 new rooftop heat pumps onto the co-op’s roof.  The new system is now nearly 70% more efficient than the previous system had been.  To top off the plan, the entire system was engineered with state-of-the-art management technology, which includes smart pumps and controls that can be remotely managed.

“This is a system that is already showing improved energy trends, and it’s something that we can easily track to ensure we continue to reap the systems full efficiency benefits,” said Dennis Wacker, assistant controller for PVREA.  “We can control what happens throughout the building moment to moment, providing much better management capability.”

As part of the conversion process, PVREA applied for and received a rebate worth nearly $14,000 from Tri-State through the association’s Energy Efficiency Products Program.

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