The city of West Union was recently awarded an Iowa Economic Development Authority/ Iowa Energy Center grant to study the current public geothermal loop system and hopefully advance this community geothermal system from a pilot project to a source of clean energy prosperity for West Union and at the same time serve as a model for other communities.
Long time community geothermal system user and project champion Dick Woodard comments, “West Union’s geothermal loop system was done as a pilot project to encourage other communities in Iowa and across the country to consider doing a similar installation. There have been phone calls and on-site visits from interested parties from all over the country.”
This public infrastructure is owned by the City of West Union and is managed by the West Union District Energy LLC. (WUDE). The eleven members of the WUDE LLC are the system’s current users. Each user pays a monthly user fee based on their building’s demand for the system. The geothermal wells are located in Fayette County Courthouse lawn and the loop field is located below the streets of the town square. The system was constructed in 2012 as a component of the Green Up West Union streetscapes program. Additional geothermal wells were also constructed in Lion’s Park.
The Winneshiek Energy District is contracted to facilitate this project officially named,”From Pilot to Prosperity: Economic & Sociocultural Success for the West Union’s community geothermal system.” But, for short it will be known as, “Green Up West Union…Community Energy Opportunities.” Winneshiek Energy District, Energy Planner, Joel Zook is leading the project for the City of West Union. “The first phase of this project is data assessment and communication. MEP Engineering & Consulting service will do the technical analysis of the current system and conduct case studies on existing and potential new users.”
In addition to the system analysis deep dive, the Green Up West Union team will offer no cost energy assessments for potential users with a focus on energy efficient lighting and solar PV assessments.
Zook mentions, “During the first quarter of this year-long project we will begin comprehensive analysis of the technical and economic potential of the community geothermal system. Eventually we want to be able tell the community what is the sustainability of the system as is and what it looks like in the case of significant uptake or high participation.” While there are currently eleven users there are nearly 60 downtown buildings with access to the community geothermal loop.
Joleen Jansen will be conducting community outreach for the project, She will be focused on establishing relationships with community members, and learning about the community’s geothermal system perceptions. Eventually Jansen will convey information learned in the technical analysis and data collection. “I am excited to work on this one of a kind project. I anticipate the study of this shared community geothermal loop system will lead to a local win-win for West Union, but also for the advancing clean energy transition.” Working out of city hall, Jansen will be in West Union weekly and encourages interested residents to contact her with questions and concerns. Jansen can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
City Manager Nick McIntyre is closely following the Green Up West Union project. He sees West Union as being a beacon for the future of rural communities. ”The community shared geothermal system is unique and plays into our role as a model for other rural towns like us.” The city is completing the installation of several solar powered city infrastructure projects, in addition in the next year the city will see significant expansion of available fiber optic network. McIntyre thinks each of these elements are key to 21st century community growth and development.
The Green UP West Union project has assembled a 10+ community member advisory task force. The task force is composed of city leaders, existing geothermal system users, potential users, and county representatives. The task force will be guideposts for the project team and will importantly serve as necessary local influence for the project’s direction.
Iowa Geothermal Association president Larry Leilefield also kindly serves on the task force as a champion of the technology. Leilefield explains, “Geothermal energy is up to 400% more efficient than conventional [HVAC] systems. For every unit of energy input to run equipment, 4 units of energy are transferred from the ground.The simplicity of geothermal is that it is transferring thermal energy that is already in the ground; and not needing to “produce” anything. Geothermal technology uses the constant earth temperature – an already prevalent energy source to extract heat in the winter and a place to send unwanted heat in the summer”. That is why geothermal cooling is so efficient!”
For community members to reference, a Green Up West Union website and social media pages are in the works. As the project rolls out over the next year, residents will also be invited to community learning sessions and other opportunities to stay informed.