American Water Subsidiary Begins Geothermal Pilot

July 15, 2015
A New York elementary school employs a geothermal heating and cooling system

A new American Water research and development pilot could transform traditional geothermal systems and introduce a new application in renewable energy. The utility company announced that its subsidiary in New York is piloting a geothermal innovation to heat and cool larger buildings.

“American Water is taking a creative approach to traditional geothermal and developing a new application that will lower energy costs and reduce a building’s carbon footprint,” said William M. Varley, senior vice president of American Water’s Northeast Div. “We are providing heating and cooling for a 40,000 sq ft school without utilizing fossil fuel in the winter months.”

The American Water geothermal system at the William L. Buck Elementary School in Valley Stream, N.Y., uses the thermal properties of the water as it passes through a heat exchanger. The American Water geothermal system is a departure from traditional geothermal—which has been in existence since the 1950s—by eliminating the need to drill more than 100 deep geothermal boreholes thereby significantly reducing initial construction costs. During this phase of the pilot program, after the water passes through the heat exchanger, it is returned to the aquifer via diffusion well.

Temperatures in each classroom can be individually controlled and with the American Water geothermal system in operation, administrators, teachers and students have a much more comfortable learning environment. For the first time ever, the William L. Buck Elementary School can be cooled in summer, enabling the school district to relocate summertime programs and events to the facility.

Construction of the geothermal system began in September 2014 with crews working at night without any disruption to student learning. By February 2015, duct work was complete, the heating and cooling geothermal console units had been installed in each classroom, and the system was put into service.

Source: American Water