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Old 05-15-2009, 05:48 PM
shane shane is offline
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Default Gateway celebrates environment, new geothermal drilling program

Rain, schmain.

Despite gusty winds and pouring rains, turnout for a community Earth Day celebration Saturday at Gateway Technical College was steady and enthusiastic.

As of 11:30 a.m., Gateway spokesman Lee Colony put the visitor count at 700 and climbing, as children and adults participated in numerous activities geared to raise environmental awareness, while showcasing means and methods promoting sustainable and renewable energy.
They could:Visit displays on green pest control.
Drop off unwanted or obsolete electronic items, as well as donate used bicycles for re-use.
Pick up compost, tree saplings and other herbs and vegetables.
Help install outdoor worm bins and garden beds.
View runway models showing off “refashion” ensembles.
Learn about organizations, agencies and programs geared toward helping them become responsible stewards of Earth’s resources.
Capping the day’s activities, Gateway celebrated its new “geo-exchange” program at an outdoor demonstration featuring core drilling of a 3-inch-wide, 100-foot-deep hole adjacent to the Horticulture Building.

The program will train students in geothermal drilling. The hole drilled Saturday is the first of five that eventually will figure into a 60,000 BTU direct exchange heat pump system that will heat the building, as well as units underneath greenhouse seedling beds to help plants germinate and grow more efficiently.

The project also will reduce energy costs to the facility by an estimated 50 to 60 percent. Geothermal energy uses heat naturally present below ground and is seen as an environmentally sound alternative energy source.

Instructors Lawrence Hobbs and Thomas Niesen said the program will provide students with marketable skills as the country strives to develop alternative sources of energy. Hobbs said the program was five years in the making and was hatched at a conference at the Kalahari Convention Center in Wisconsin Dells.

The resort boasts a list of green initiatives, including a water recycling system for laundry reputed to conserve 26 million gallons of water yearly, rooftop solar panels that heat more than 60 percent of the resort’s laundry facilities water and more.

“We said we can do this — and we can do it better,” Hobbs said.

Added Niesen: “We’re proud to be the first school in the U.S. that we know of to offer geothermal drilling. We couldn’t be at a better place at a better time. Actually, I thought I’d be dead before this would ever happen.”

Saying the program “not only is a landmark program for us, but for the state of Wisconsin,” Gateway President Bryan Albrecht said the new course was “more than about a particular program; it was a community project.”

State Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, lauded the program for fostering skill development toward sustainable and renewable energy and away from dependence on foreign oil.

“Welcome to the new world,” Barca said. “It’s the way the country, the whole world is going today. It’s absolutely essential that we move forward with alternative sources of energy.”

He said he plans to bring Gateway together with the head of a UW-Madison program recently awarded a $300 million federal grant to develop bio-energy.

Ann Archibald, owner of 2DX2 Geothermal Systems, and Tony Anhalt, owner of Anhalt Well Drilling & Pumps Inc., both of Racine, said skills taught in the program can feed directly into a growing market as residential, commercial and industrial developers look for better, more economical means of energy.

Archibald’s company is geared toward smaller-scale use than Anhalt’s and employs machines small enough to work in relatively tight quarters.

“We’re targeting the retrofit market. I sponsored the students and gave them the rig because I know we need this training,” she said.

Anhalt, whose company drills in residential, farm and commercial settings, said, “A lot of this you learned on the job. This is what we do every single day. Geothermal is definitely a growing market.”

Eyeing students and instructors clad in bright yellow rain gear working the geothermal drilling machine, Anhalt added with a smile: “I’ve been doing this for 26 years, and I still love it.”
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