Journalism / New Haven Register

‘Green’ heating system gains in No. Branford

Monday, June 15, 2009
By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff

NORTH BRANFORD — The plans for the renovation and expansion of the Atwater Memorial Library are set to include a geothermal heating and cooling system.

Town officials have been discussing the possibility of installing a “green” heating system at the library for months. Town Manager Richard Branigan said it initially appeared that the system would be too expensive for the project’s budget, but a new design could allow the town to recoup the additional costs in about five years.

The current construction estimate for the project, which will nearly double the library ’s size to 12,500 square feet, is about $2.9 million. The town is planning to go out to bid for construction on Friday, and officials hope that work will begin in early August.

The total budget for the renovation of Atwater and the Edward Smith Library, which reopened in February after a year of construction, is $9.5 million.

The Smith library does not include alternative energy sources.

Branigan said that a test well at the Atwater library, at 1720 Foxon Rd., showed that the site can support a geothermal heating and cooling system.

The system would include some electric pumps and other parts, but most of the energy would be provided by a series of wells.

The total cost of the geothermal system is estimated at about $550,000, Branigan said, $150,000 more than electric heating and cooling.

“Five to seven years from now we would have paid back the differential cost in construction, and then after that we have no costs, which is just amazing,” he said, adding that a state energy efficiency grant of $66,000 could cut the payback time to one or two years.

Estimates for the entire cost of construction also came in about $200,000 under budget, Branigan told the Town Council last week, allowing officials to pursue geothermal heating and air-conditioning.

An early design for the geothermal system included one main well providing energy for the entire system, Branigan said. With a new design utilizing about a dozen wells, the architects were able to reduce the cost.

“When they looked at this alternate approach and then we started looking at the cost of this versus traditional sources, it made a lot of sense,” Branigan said.

Atwater is currently closed in preparation for the start of construction.

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