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Editorial: Center Grove’s energy plan on solid ground

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Center Grove is turning to nature to heat and cool three buildings.

The school district will pay two companies more than $1.2 million to dig geothermal wells at Center Grove and North Grove Elementary schools. That amount will also cover the cost of a third well for the Professional Resource Center, which was formerly Maple Grove Elementary School and now houses the alternative academy and police department.

The wells will be several hundred feet deep and use water running through a tube to gather heat from groundwater, which then runs back into the building for heating and cooling.

Director of maintenance Dave Statler said the school district should start saving money on energy costs during the next several years because of the wells, which typically require less electricity to operate, though officials haven’t calculated how much savings to expect.

Center Grove plans to begin work on two $10 million projects at both elementary schools in May, and the school district will include the expense of the wells in the construction budget. The well for the Professional Resource Center will be paid for by borrowing money, property tax dollars Center Grove receives for building projects and savings the school district has after refinancing debt, Statler and assistant superintendent Bill Long said.

The school board unanimously approved all three wells. Work will begin immediately on the well outside the Professional Resource Center, and that should be complete by the end of July. Digging for the wells outside the two elementary schools will start in June and should be complete by September.

The wells will be several hundred feet deep, and during construction will have an opening between 4 and 6 inches in diameter. They will have fences and other barriers around them to ensure children can’t get hurt. Once the wells are complete, they will be permanently covered, Statler said.

Long and Statler said school officials have always planned to include geothermal energy as part of the construction projects at the two elementary schools.

The Center Grove project is intriguing and holds a great deal of potential. We urge school district leaders to share their findings with other districts, so they can judge for themselves whether similar projects would be feasible when they erect new buildings or renovate older ones.

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