BLOOMINGTON — Holes being drilled along Veterans Parkway east of Mercer Avenue are part of Westminster Village’s massive, cutting-edge energy solution.
A geothermal well field is being constructed on the Veterans Parkway side of the continuing care retirement community. The project will provide heating and cooling to the Westminster campus for 50 years or more.
“This is a long-term solution,” said Barb Nathan, executive director of Westminster, 2025 E. Lincoln St., Bloomington.
While the cost is $6.7 million, Nathan said Westminster’s board of directors concluded that the project would be a 50-year investment.
The geothermal system should be energy efficient and easy on the environment, and accompanying upgrades to Westminster’s piping, ventilation and lighting systems and thermostatic controls should mean improved comfort for residents, and Nathan and Tony Patton, Westminster’s director of environmental services.
The Westminster board knew it had to replace the community’s cooling tower so took an energy assessment of the entire campus, which opened in 1979. “The infrastructure was aging,” Patton said.
A study concluded that Westminster would be a good candidate for a geothermal well field because the community had unused land along Veterans, Nathan said. The board compared geothermal to other systems and concluded that geothermal would require a large capital outlay but would be the most economical long term, she said.
Site work began in late June, Patton said. An average of two wells are being drilled each day to a depth of 434 feet, where the temperature remains stable at 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit, said Troy Gray, project manager with Energy Systems Group. By spring, 300 wells should be drilled.
The new system will be phased in over several months to keep impact to Westminster’s 356 residents and 190 full- and part-time employees to a minimum, Gray said. After the project is complete, land above the well field will be returned to grass, trees and shrubs, Patton said.
Geothermal systems use temperature differences within the earth to heat or cool buildings.
“The well field acts like a condensing unit outside your house,” Gray said.
During winter, heat for buildings is extracted from the wells and transferred through a network of heat pumps throughout the facility. During summer, heat from the buildings is discharged into the cooling ground.
By switching to geothermal, Westminster will reduce its carbon dioxide emissions, cut energy consumption by 39 percent and reduce energy costs by $119,863 annually, Patton said.
Nathan said Westminster has the assets to pay for the project but decided instead to borrow the money and repay it over time because of favorable interest rates and because assets would be available for other possible projects.