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New York seminary begins geothermal energy project


One of the most renowned U.S. Episcopal (Anglican) seminaries has begun a major "greening" initiative said to be the largest geothermal project in the northeastern United States.

General Theological Seminary, in the Chelsea section of Manhattan, is converting the 190-year-old institution’s heating and cooling system into a more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly operation that will wean the seminary off fossil fuel. Work began on the project earlier in August.

"As stewards of both our Chelsea Square campus and of the glorious but fragile earth we all share, we are investing in this geothermal system to benefit the seminary, our neighbours and our world for generations to come," Ward B. Ewing, the seminary’s dean and president, said in a statement. "This project ensures that a campus built for the ages will continue to serve through the ages. And it reminds us that we must work as hard to preserve the environment as we do to save our seminary’s historic buildings."

General Seminary expects the project to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by more than 14 000 tons per year. Using the constant temperature of Manhattan Island’s famed bedrock as its heating and cooling source, the new system is expected to save enough money to pay off the project’s cost quickly.

At the core of the new system is geothermal pumping. During cooler periods, when the subsurface bedrock is warmer than the air above ground, the pumps will push heat upward; during warmer periods above ground, heat will be transferred down into the ground.

"(It) is especially appropriate for General Seminary to undertake a project that so clearly responds to the Episcopal Church’s concern about energy conservation and global warming," the seminary said. "The very term ‘seminary’ derives from the word for a seedbed or nursery, in which life-giving seeds are first germinated and then propagated."

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