Geothermal energy proposed for Rockford’s new jail

Stressing energy efficiency, Winnebago County Board member Polly Berg (D-7) is asking the engineers for the new Criminal Justice Center to take a look at geothermal heating and cooling for the facility under construction in downtown Rockford.

“From what I have learned in research, we could save nearly 50 percent in heating and cooling costs in the future by using a geothermal system rather than a fossil fuel alternative such as natural gas,” said Berg. “Even though the installation of a geothermal system would be more costly, it would be a tremendous savings in the future.”

In addition, Berg added, it would be much safer for the environment. The USEPA has identified geothermal heat pumps as a technology that significantly reduces greenhouse gas and other air emissions associated with heating, cooling and water heating under conventional systems.

The Geothermal Heat Pump Consortium Inc., of Columbia, Md., is preparing a feasibility study and life cycle cost analysis for the engineers designing the new Justice Center at the request of Berg, who chairs the Operations Committee of the County Board, and Gary Burdett, project director.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich has encouraged energy efficiency in construction by awarding $70,000 in Opportunity Returns funds to be administered by the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO). Rock Valley College will develop the programs to highlight energy-efficient systems, including geothermal.

Berg concluded that it behooves us to investigate every possible means of saving taxpayer dollars now, rather than costly refitting in the future when it becomes apparent that geothermal would have been the most cost effective and environmentally friendly system.

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