BENNINGTON -- Five years after the project’s groundbreaking, Vermont Veterans’ Home officials celebrated the conclusion of a large-scale geothermal project Monday.
Comprised of three stages of work totaling approximately $9.2 million, the last phase completed this past November, the project’s twin benefits were said to be increased energy efficiency and more comfortable temps for residents.
"We have the ability to heat or cool within a half-degree to the veterans’ request," in each individual room and common area, said home Administrator Melissa Jackson. "It definitely improves their quality of life."
Jackson said the new heating/cooling systems proved to work well especially during recent hot weather. "They are very pleased with it," she said of residents. After initially going into operation in November, the system has since been balanced and fine-tuned.
This upcoming winter will be the first full heating season for the geothermal system, and Jackson said administrators were anticipating roughly $200,000 in annual savings, based on reduced oil consumption from 2007, adjusted for current prices.
The long-term project spanned three top administrators at the vets home, and also two governors.
In a letter congratulating the achievement, Gov. Peter Shumlin traced the project’s origins to 2005 when a review of the facility’s mechanical and structural needs found inefficiencies with existing heating and air handling equipment.
Shumlin said the project served as "an example of how we can move toward more efficient and cleaner renewable energy," and he cited a 39 percent reduction in the home’s fuel oil consumption.
At the 2007 groundbreaking, former Gov. James Douglas said the project fell in line with the state’s hope to run government efficiently with the smallest possible environmental footprint.
Geothermal heating systems rely on an energy exchange between ambient temperatures above ground and fairly constant temperatures below ground. At the vets home, the geothermal system takes advantage of a large underground aquifer. On very hot and very cold days, the geothermal system is supplemented by traditional heating and cooling sources.
Along with the installation of the geothermal system, the multi-year project included full renovations to several "neighborhoods" of the vets home complex, new windows, asbestos abatement, and upgrades to air handling systems.
Two-thirds of the cost of the project was funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, with the remainder paid for through Vermont state appropriations.
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