Elementary school tests heating technology novel to Interior Alaska

From The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Friday, September 17, 2010:

Large rolls of black tubing sat like super-sized balls of yarn next to the playground outside Weller Elementary School Wednesday. The sun shined brightly on the south-facing hillside, where a bulldozer carved out a 12-foot hole.

The balls, which are actually polyethylene ground loops, were then rolled out and buried in the ditch, where they will harvest heat from underground to use in the school during the winter. In the summer, six solar thermal panels soon to be mounted on the school will replenish heat to the earth through the same tubes. The system will not only reap savings on heat for the school district but also will test a technology that is young in Fairbanks.

“I would like to see a system that would work well in the Interior and that the public can utilize and save dollars,” said Larry Morris, projects manager for the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District.

The project is an experiment to see how well the systems work in tandem and to collect data on ground source heat pumps, which are common in the Lower 48 but rare in Fairbanks.

“What we’re trying to do here is pair that system with a solar system that will recharge the heat you take out of the ground. In warmer climates, the sun can recharge how much you take out,” said Aaron Sirois, an engineer for PDC Engineering. “We were trying to come up with a solution that’s kind of adapted to Fairbanks.”