Saturday, November 22, 2008

At a New York Seminary, a Green Idea Gets Tangled in Red Tape

New York Times reports on the bureaucratic nightmare of trying to be energy efficient in Manhattan.

Here was the easy part about an elegant, smart alternative energy project at an Episcopal seminary in Chelsea: drilling 1,500 feet through Manhattan schist to reach the water that runs deep and warm in the earth.

“An 8 3/4-inch carbide button drill bit,” said Dennis Frawley, who managed the project for the General Theological Seminary. “Behind that, there was a fluted percussion hammer. That pounds the rock into particulate.”

Drilling a quarter-mile into solid rock was simple, said Maureen Burnley, the seminary’s executive vice president, compared with persuading government officials and agencies that had the authority to say no — or to simply do nothing and stop all progress.

“We had to answer to 10 agencies,” Ms. Burnley said. “It took three times as long as it should have. The left and the right hand did not know what the other was doing.”

Ms. Burnley and Mr. Frawley were members of a small team that has installed seven geothermal wells at the seminary, which occupies most of a full city block between Ninth and 10th Avenues and 20th and 21st Streets. They intend to drill 15 more. The wells are a source of energy because the water is 65 degrees year-round, so it is being used to cool seminary buildings in the summer and heat them in the winter. Once all 22 wells are running, the seminary will shut down its boilers. By replacing fuel oil with geothermal energy, the seminary will reduce its annual carbon dioxide emissions by 1,400 tons.

1 comment:

Robert Christian said...

I really enjoyed reading this. So many churches skirt the environmental issue. I'm glad we're not. We even have banned the use of styrofoam at church.