Tennessee Energy Efficient Schools Initiative Ground Source Heat Pumps Geothermal Project

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Last modified on July 22, 2011.

Project Title Tennessee Energy Efficient Schools Initiative Ground Source Heat Pumps
Project Type / Topic 1 Recovery Act – Geothermal Technologies Program: Ground Source Heat Pumps
Project Type / Topic 2 Topic Area 1: Technology Demonstration Projects
Project Description The State of Tennessee pays about $56 million per year for heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) in more than 1,700 public school buildings in 136 districts. While many districts have modernized their equipment, an estimated 1,200 buildings continue to rely on inefficient window and packaged rooftop units, and are in dire need of upgrades. In order to resolve this issue, the Tennessee Legislature created the Energy Efficient Schools Initiative (EESI). Its objective is to promote technologies and guidelines in retrofits and new construction that will increase energy efficiency and reduce energy costs in the State’s schools. The resources for this funding are from state lottery funds; the program specifically favors GSHP systems with greater funding levels over conventional systems.
State Tennessee
Objectives Develop methods to make GSHPs more affordable for Tennessee school districts, by innovative design techniques, reducing the up-front cost of the technology, and by providing an innovative method of financing construction. Four to five school districts will be chosen as test beds for the innovations.
Awardees (Company / Institution) Tennessee Department of Education
Awardee Website http://www.state.tn.us/education/
Partner 1 Hamilton County Department of Education
Partner 2 Lawrence County School System
Partner 3 Coffee County Board of Education

Funding Opportunity Announcement DE-FOA-0000116
DOE Funding Level (total award amount) $3,000,000.00
Awardee Cost Share $5,189,000.00
Total Project Cost $8,189,000.00

Principal Investigator(s) Terry

Townsend, Townsend Engineering

Targets / Milestones Ground source heat pumps (GSHPs) are among the most energy efficient technologies for providing HVAC and water heating in schools, and the State recognizes that this technology will play a key role in meeting EESI’s objectives. Seven school districts in Tennessee have already had success with GSHPs, and two counties – Williamson and Sumner – now require GSHPs in all new school construction. Nevertheless, the high first cost of GSHP technology continues to be an obstacle, particularly for districts with limited resources. Ironically, these are the very districts that are in most need of HVAC upgrades, and that can benefit most from a reduction in utility bills.

The schools will use hybrid GSHP systems. By including supplemental heat rejection capacity in the form of dry or wet cooling towers, hybrid GSHPs reduce the ground heat exchanger requirement, and have the potential to reduce installation costs by 30%-40%. At present they are rarely specified in the U.S. because of the lack of proven design tools. This project may assist engineers in the possible use of a new hybrid design tool developed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), in the process providing validation data for the new design tool.

The GSHP systems at the test schools will be financed by the Tennessee EESI, Tennessee Economic and Community Development Programs, local school district funds and DOE funding. Possible additional funding may include sources that are available only to school systems.

We believe this methodology will have wide applicability to school districts across the US, leading to more widespread use of GSHP technology and resulting reductions in energy use and greenhouse gas production and providing better data for hybrid systems design, installation and operation.

Location of Project Lawrenceburg, TN, Cookeville, TN, Chattanooga, TN, Manchester, TN
, 36.1628°, -85.5017°, 35.0456°, -85.3097°,

Impacts Potential to demonstrate an ASHRAE hybrid design model to be replicated to other school systems.
Funding Source American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009
References EERE Geothermal Technologies Programs[1]


  1. EERE Geothermal Technologies Programs