Park district uses geothermal power for tennis center
Workers work on the renovation of the A.C. Nielsen Tennis Center in Winnetka on Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012. Work began a few weeks ago and is expected to be completed by early 2013. An addition of 1,800 square feet will be added to the front of the building for a new entrance, lounge and office space. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 2, 2012 10:04AM
WINNETKA — The drilling equipment in front of the A.C. Nielsen Tennis Center may not have seemed environmentally friendly, but it played an important part in the Winnetka Park District’s green initiative as it moves forward with renovations to the building.
Construction crews drilled 500 feet below the surface to harness the geothermal energy that will be used to help cool and heat the tennis center. The cooler air deep underground could save the park district between $1,000 and $1,500 annually in electricity and natural gas costs.
Superintendent of Facilities Tom Gullen has observed similar systems in other recreational buildings, specifically by ice rinks in Minnesota, who use it to chill their floors.
“It made sense for us to pursue, and the good news is the system works forever,” Gullen said. “There’s going to be some equipment that needs to be purchased down the line, but it’s simpler than a traditional (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system.”
Part of the $2.3 million Skokie Playfield Master Plan included the demolition, reconstruction and renovation of various parts of the 50-year-old Nielsen Tennis Center. The project includes a new 1,800 square foot addition to the building and the renovation of 5,300 sqare feet of existing space.
“The building was built in three different phases and there’s never been a central entrance or gathering space for members after they play tennis,” Gullen said. “We looked at different options of what we could do with this addition and (the geothermal plan) made sense.”
While the new geothermal energy project won’t eliminate the need for heating and cooling systems entirely, it will assist in cooling the building in summer and warming the building in winter.
“At that (500 foot) depth, the temperature of the Earth is about 50 degrees,” Park Supervisor John Barrett said. “We’ll still be using our traditional furnaces, but it will alleviate the need for natural gas.”
Last week crews drilled six separate holes underneath the tennis center. A heat pump inside the facility will power the new system.
Gullen added the park district has completed the first stage of a grant process through the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation. If the Winnetka Park District is awarded the grant it would cover some incremental costs of the geothermal project.