The Fort Atkinson School District Journey for Sustainable Energy Sources and Savings!

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    In April of 2006 citizens of Fort Atkinson approved a referendum question to provide for the installment of new Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems in four of its six district buildings. The first question on the April 2006 referendum asked for approval of new HVAC systems for the four aging buildings at a cost of $9,650,000 dollars. The second question asked citizens permission to install a geothermal HVAC system that would cost an extra $1,040,000 dollars. The citizens approved both questions thus the total Geothermal HVAC project was $10,690,000 dollars. 


    In the 2007-2008 the Geothermal HVAC installment was completed at Purdy, Rockwell, and Barrie schools. The following school year in 2008-2009 installation was completed at our 180,000 square foot middle school.  


    With geothermal there is a loop system where water is brought up to the surface from deep down (over 200 feet) in the earth where the temperature of the water is approximately fifty degrees. In the winter months heating pumps then heat the water to seventy degrees as it circulates through the building loop system heating the building and then sending the water back down to the earth. In the warm weather months the operation is reversed and the buildings are cooled as the water comes up from the earth and is returned back per the same process.  


    In terms of energy savings we have measured this in terms of kilowatt hours saved per the four buildings up and running since the complete installation of the geothermal systems in comparison to our last year, 2006-2007 with traditional heating and ventilating. It should be noted that in addition to heating and ventilating we now COOLED our buildings. Thus the savings we have had in kilowatt hours and dollars saved (which in Mr. Kuchenmeister’s report to the Board in 2010 of approximately $69,000) reflects the air conditioning we did not have previously which has enhanced summer school operations and the overall comfort of our buildings on warm days. Our greatest savings months are in the winter. Our most expensive months are when the weather is warm and we utilize more electricity for cooling the buildings.  


    One of the really nice features about our Geothermal system is that it allows us to regulate and control heating and cooling by rooms and offices. In other words we only need to heat and cool areas we are using in comparison with other systems that do not allow such flexibility or inhibit you to heating or cooling zones. With our geothermal system we can control energy use per the room or areas we wish to have heated or cooled at our discretion. 


    In summary we fully expect the School District of Fort Atkinson to continue its efforts in finding ways to conserve energy with green sustainable methodologies. The Energy Star Challenge has been a great motivation for us. Dennis Kuchenmeister, our Director of Building and Grounds has done a marvelous job staying abreast of possible green energy savings opportunities.