Geothermal energy or solar power?

You think the Nevada desert, you think solar power. But that’s not the case at Pahrump Valley High School, about 50 miles west of Las Vegas. 

The school, scheduled to open in 2012, is being built with a geothermal heat pump (GHP).

Contractor EnLink Geoenergy Services said the system will provide heating and cooling at a lower cost than just sucking electricity from the grid – and, of course, it’s a lot cleaner.

Energy efficiency is a big consideration for the school construction, according to the Nye County School District, but solar isn’t listed as one of the technologies being employed. 

“The bottom line is GHP saves us money because it is the most efficient way to heat and cool our buildings, and it also helps us protect the environment at the same time, which is more important than ever,” said the school district’s Dave Wonderly.

A geothermal heating and cooling system takes advantage of stable underground temperatures as surface temperatures rise and fall seasonally.

In the winter, the pump extracts heat from the ground to warm buildings, and in the summer it transfers heat back into the ground for cooling.

EnLink Geoenergy Services confirmed it will drill 300 geothermal wells to a depth of 390 feet each for the Pahrump Valley High School project.

“The system will contain 2 underground vaults that serve as central connection points for the smaller lines coming from the geothermal borefield, before feeding into the school building,” the company said.

“In addition, the district is planning for the future and has sized the GHP system so that it can service two additional buildings when the school expands.”

* Pete Danko, EarthTechling