In going over the mechanics of creating an operational budget for the rapidly approaching year, the Kent County Finance Committee learned the installation of a geothermal energy system in the fairly new 63rd District Court several years ago has produced some early benefits.
“It’s about a 20 percent savings, overall,” said County Assistant Administrator Mary Swanson.
Swanson added that the savings came not only from spending less on heating and cooling the building, but also from fewer expenses to maintain the system. It cost the county $44,238 to heat and cool the courthouse, resulting in a per-square-foot cost of $1.11. The average cost for the county to do the same with the conventional boilers and chillers has been $1.51 per square foot.
As for maintenance costs, using the geothermal system cut a water treatment expense of $8,000, along with a $10,000 maintenance agreement. Overall, the county estimated it saved $34,000 last year due to the geothermal system.
County Facilities Director Al Jano said Kent is looking for a 10-year payback from the system. He said the geothermal wells should have a shelf life ranging from 50 to possibly 100 years, and the system’s other components, such as heat exchangers, are fairly easy and inexpensive to replace.
Jano also said the county’s savings from the courthouse’s system will vary, depending on degree days and the cost of electricity. But rather than see the savings in dollars, Commissioner Jim Talen said he wants the measurement to focus on the units of energy the building consumes. That, he felt, would be a more accurate energy measurement.