Hot idea heats up
It looks like a standard school lawn but dig a little deeper and you'll find a hot new initiative at work.
Somerville man Garry Thompson went to Shelly Park School three years ago with an innovative ground source heat system - the product of a family passion for heating.
"You have to convince somebody and they were willing to take it on. We were like ‘look it works overseas, we want to use our technology to do it here," Mr Thompson says.
Now four bore holes run 100 metres down into the earth, harnessing the heat from the ground.
The free energy is converted into extremely hot water for the classroom radiators by a heat pump designed by Mr Thompson's father Peter.
"You have got this never-ending supply of heat - the ground - and we are just utilising that," Mr Thompson says.
"Wet sandstone really is the best conductor and the water that is travelling through the ground brings the energy with it. It is the most sustainable form of heating there is."
The school extended the system this month to heat almost half of its classrooms as an alternative to the archaic coal-fired approach.
Mr Thompson says there is a one-off installation cost and then it is just a matter of running the electric motor and small pumps to circulate the water.
"Basically you put in one unit of electricity and you pull out another three or four of heat energy.
"There is virtually nothing to do once it is all set up, unless a component packs up. There is no pollution at all, you can't get much greener than this."
He says the school now has a permanent clean, green way of being heated and he has been able to iron out any kinks in the system.
"Whatever happens - the school could burn down and it would still be there.
"It's there for probably well over the life of the school."
Mr Thompson says one out of three new homes in Sweden is heated using similar technology and the concept was even used at the Beijing Olympics.
"They cooled all the corporate boxes by dumping the heat in the middle of the stadium," he says.
"The middle of the stadium has over 100 boreholes going down 100 metres or so and they get rid of the heat down there but conversely you can pull the heat out."
The school is breaking new ground using the heating system and only one other property in New Zealand is heated using the Thompsons' technology.
"There are companies in New Zealand using imported heat pumps but they are not reaching the higher temperatures - they can't get over 65 degrees without auxiliary heating," he says.
"Not everyone wants hot water, or hot water at such high temperatures, but it is the best way to go for industries, radiator systems, and for sterilised water."
Shelly Park School principal Brian Rolfe says the new heating system has helped create a warm environment that helps children learn. "It works so well that it's now heating two blocks of three classrooms more effectively than we've ever experienced." email@example.com