Council denies church's heat pump permit
A ground source heat pump is an electrically powered system that uses stored energy in the earth to provide heating, cooling and hot water at a very efficient rate.
The pipes that gather the energy are fit into bore holes, and use a food-based, biodegradable substance to move the energy to and from the ground and into whatever building needs the heating or cooling.
According to Steve Bejcek, owner of Steve’s Pumps and Well Drilling in Janesville, the same pipes used to transport the city’s natural gas supply would be used for the GHSP. They would also be encased in a clay-like substance called Bentonite.
According to energy services specialist for the Lassen Municipal Utility District Theresa Phillips, there are currently more than 1 million GSHPs in the United States right now. The Plumas Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative is currently using roughly 400 such systems, Phillips said.
President of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church board Phil Parry said in researching a more efficient heating and cooling system for the church, he learned of several organizations around the country that not only utilized the system, but sang its praises as well, including several schools in California and the entire Tahoe Truckee Unified School District.
Based on the information Phillips and Parry presented, the system LMUD was looking to install at the church would have been so efficient enough to have paid for itself in roughly six years.
Platt explained at the meeting that he was concerned with the effects the system might have on the county’s water supply, as well as the number of bore holes and the depth of holes required for the installation. He was worried that a large number of boreholes could lead to a widespread contamination of the city’s water supply, from all the other materials that could seep into the holes, as well as the materials used in the construction of the system
He also raised his concerns about the growing popularity of these systems. He said he was concerned about the potential of there being thousands of boreholes around the city.
Parry said the church is in need of a new heat source. He said the current boiler at the church is 75 years old, and it was purchased used. He said that last month, it cost about $2,000 to fill the boiler with oil. He explained the church had received a loan from Lutheran Church improvement organization allowing it to upgrade the efficiency of its electrical and heating systems. LMUD conducted an energy audit, and as a result, the church found that it could save roughly $20,000 in rebates from the utility, leaving roughly $110,000 left in the loan to make payments on.
Parry said the church board will have to move forward and start looking at alternatives because the city denied the permit. He expressed his disappointment with the city in not being able to see the benefits of this system.
The city has no guidelines dealing with GSHP systems, while Lassen County and the state do. The church board asked Platt to start looking into guidelines for this type of heating system in April of 2007. Parry said this was right around the time LMUD had completed work on the GSHP for the Historic Susanville Railroad Depot building.
Parry also said the board called Platt roughly five months ago saying it had planned to move forward with a GSHP, and it needed Platt to step up on this one. At the meeting, Platt said the church had only contacted him a few weeks ago.
Susanville Mayor Kurt Bonham asked Bejcek at the meeting if he had obtained an environmental health permit from the county, to which Bejcek said while he was in contact with the county, he wanted to work with the city first.
As part of the directions Bonham gave staff, he asked Bejcek to get together with Platt and start educating and helping each other to come up with a set of guidelines dealing with the installation of GSHP’s in the city.
In the meantime, councilmembers Lino Callegari and Vern Templeton said until they were absolutely convinced that there was no chance of any contamination to the city’s water table, they would continue to support Platt’s judgment.
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