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Going with Geothermal in Mexico, MO

Gary Grigsby

When you're investing millions of dollars in a building project you might think twice before installing a type of  heating and air conditioning system that while growing in popularity, you are not all that familiar with.

But that's exactly what Terry Mackey is doing in Mexico, Missouri.  Mackey is CEO of the Arthur Center for Community Health and is putting up two new buildings, one of them 25,000 square feet.  He's using geothermal, or heat of the earth, as his energy source.  A system he hopes in the long run will save him a lot of money.

In many ways the construction site is like many others with the sounds of workers using nail guns and power saws in the process of putting it all together.  But in its early stages awhile back, well, maybe a little bit more chaotic than other construction sites because geothermal is involved.  Mackey said part of that process involves drilling numerous 300 foot holes into the ground. "When you've got drillers drilling 22 wells and six wells on another, it's just like whoa!  And you know, the mud.  It's been challenging and everybody gets in everybody else's way."

Credit Gary Grigsby / KBIA
Water will be pumped through these pipes at one of the Arthur Center facilities in Mexico, MO. It's part of the geothermal system there.  A parking lot will be built over this exposed piping.

Eventually though all those well holes are capped and hooked-up to heat pumps inside the building.  Water will then be pumped through the system and deep into the earth where it's stored.  "When winter comes we are able to extract the heat from the ground with the fluid.  The warmer fluid comes into the heating and cooling units and they are able to make heat," said Kirk Mescher.  Mescher is an engineer with CM Engineering in Columbia who helped design the system for the Arthur Center.  A system that Arthur Center CEO Mackey said will cost about $400,000 more to install than a more traditional system.  "So we gotta make back that $400,000," Mackey said.  He expects to do that by chipping away at the extra cost slowly after they begin using the geothermal system.  A system that he expects will cut his energy costs by 50% month after month.  "So every month that we pay a utility bill you know those savings are starting to eat away at that and it's going to take 8-10 years for those savings and those monthly bills to add up to $400,000," he said.

So Mackey knows it's a long-term investment.  But he said after the long-term investment is paid off, "hey, it's sweet."  He also said he can save money and be green at the same time.  "This building is gonna be here 50, who knows, 100 years.  So we wanna leave something to the next generation that's sustainable."