Excerpt: On Tuesday, Jan. 12, the Fitchburg City Council will make a once-in-a-century decision: Shall it borrow against future energy savings to install geothermal heating and cooling in its new library building?
The building is otherwise designed for a 100-year service life. The decision must be made now, however, whether to install a 20th or 21st century heating and cooling plant. The conventional system burns natural gas for heating and uses electricity to power air conditioning, while the geothermal system uses electric heat pump technology to cool the building (and warm the earth under the parking lot) in the summer and warm the building with the heat stored underground in the winter. Both systems use electricity for moving air and controlling dampers. Unfortunately, the two systems require different building designs.