JOHN ARENDT GEOTHERMAL INSTALLATION Crews are working to install a geothermal plant at Summerland Secondary School. The school is the fifth in the school district to receive this treatment.

Greener future for Summerland Secondary

Geothermal plant should be fully operational by fall

Summerland Secondary School is going to be heated — and cooled — more efficiently when students return to classes next September.

Work is going on right now to install wells in the school’s fields for a geothermal plant, using the naturally constant temperature deep underground to heat and cool the school.

Doug Gorcak, the Okanagan Skaha School District’s director of facilities, said that the system offers not just lower operating costs, but an estimated reduction of 200 tonnes of carbon being put into the environment. That reduces costs in a couple of ways.

“There is the carbon tax, which we all pay on fuel, natural gas, we pay on all those things that produce carbon. Then, as a provincial entity, we also purchase carbon offsets so that we are carbon neutral at the end of the year,” said Gorcak. “By reducing the 200 tonnes of carbon we are putting into the atmosphere, that then allows us to avoid paying for those 200 tonnes of carbon at $25 a tonne.

“So there is some savings there. We’re green for the environment and we end up with a better temperature control inside the school.”

Summerland Secondary is the fifth school in the district to receive this treatment. “Pen High was built with it, we’ve subsequently done a big field at Princess Margaret,” said Gorcak, adding that field was also tied into the neighbouring Skaha Lake Middle School. “We also have it at Wiltse Elementary.”

Not all the district’s schools will be converted to a geothermal system. Gorcak explained there are other options that you can do in a smaller school.

“It would only be the big elementaries that we would consider for geothermal: Wiltse, maybe at Giant’s Head,” said Gorcak. “As technologies are changing, there are other ways we can become more efficient without having to dig up the fields.”

Gorcak said the geothermal system won’t interfere with plans for a skatepark at the school.

“We’ve taken the skate park into consideration with the design,” adding that the property for the skatepark is secure. “We were forward-thinking enough to make sure we didn’t mess up any other plans.”

Gorcak expects work on the external geothermal field portion of the project to be wrapped up by the end of July, and internal upgrades later.

“There is also a full mechanical upgrade going on inside the school. We are replacing all the heating and cooling units,” said Gorcak, adding the school will be ready for students in September, but there might be contractors finishing up the upgrades inside the school until October.

Steve Kidd
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
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