Facts and Nothing but The Facts: Geothermal at CMS & in Greenwich’s Future Construction Projects

Submitted by James O’Brien, Steve Hall and Andrew Winston, Greenwich

Last week the RTM overwhelmingly voted, 198-2-2, to appropriate $411,055 to fund an emergency HVAC system for Hamilton Avenue School until a permanent solution can be found. This judgment followed a vote last month to postpone a decision on a $3.2 million request by the Board of Education (BOE) for a gas-fired system to replace the existing geothermal HVAC damaged by improper use.

Members requested a full accounting of the costs of both a new gas-fired system and repairs to the geothermal system, as revealed and recommended by the BOE’s consulting engineer, The Farnsworth Group. The BOE will now partner with the Selectmen’s Energy Management Advisory Committee, “who will now serve as lead…to conduct the analysis and related engineering/work.”

Perhaps the CMSBC which rejected the geothermal option should revisit the HVAC system with solar as proposed for CMS by your Consulting Engineers, Thornton Tomasetti, who recommended a geothermal system for its high efficiency, lower energy use, and significant cost savings:

1. $3.2 million in savings or the purchase and installation of the Geothermal option vs a traditional gas-fired boiler for heat, utilizing state and federal IRA incentives;

2. The energy used to run the system with the Geothermal is often four times more efficient and therefore four times less expensive than a standard gas-fired system/air source heat pump;

3. The replacement cost for the Geothermal system in today’s money is $1.2M less expensive for Geothermal than the traditional gas-fired system;

4. For the 50-year life cycle costs, the base case will cost $44.8M, while the alt geo is $39.4M, a difference of $5.4M. Geothermal offers significant long-term savings that a gas-fired HVAC cannot match.

There has also been considerable misinformation from multiple sources in the November memo from GPS Facilities and BOE’s conversation about the Sense of the Meeting Resolution opposing CMS geothermal and discussions at RTM committees and the BET Budget Committee meetings, which should be corrected:

1. Twenty schools in CT alone presently have or are constructing geothermal systems. Many more are considering geothermal installations due to state and federal incentives that make these clean, renewable systems competitive and affordable;

2. Geothermal technology is quite easy to run and monitor as per HVAC engineers and energy experts;

3. Geothermal can be completed before the opening of CMS and will not affect the inauguration of the playing fields, as per its Construction Manager, Turner Construction’s schedule, a fact not communicated to the BOE before their Sense of the Meeting Resolution that they would not support geothermal at CMS;

4. The Northeast is ideal for geothermal technology due to its favorable geological conditions for thermal exchange, such as shallow aquifers and dense bedrock, and stable subsurface temperatures

BET’s Budget Guidelines for Fiscal Year 2023-2024 (FY24) anticipated that FY24 would be “…the first of several difficult years for the TOG budget.” ….The Guidelines also cite an anticipated “utility expense increase of $3.1 million or 54%.”

Please read pages 11 and 12 in the attached link of the Selectmen’s Energy Management Advisory Committee Annual Report, dated September 2023.

The two pages will fully explain the advantages of Geothermal over the ill-advised choice at CMS and for the future, quite eye-opening. If this link doesn’t open, copy and paste into your browser EMAC 2023 Annual Report copy.pdf.