Finding Faith in Solar, Geothermal

March 9, 2009
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Sensing technology allows accurate monitoring of the solar water heating system.

ROCKFORD, Ill. - Faith-based refers to initiatives that are religious in nature and created without government assistance. Sustainable refers to initiatives that are green in nature designed for energy conservation. In recent years, those two concepts have started to meld together.

One example is a project of a Christian community development organization designed to expand the economic diversity of a section of a Midwest city, while at the same time employing such technology as solar heating for water and geothermal heat pumps for heating and cooling.

Lantow Lofts, on the near southeast side of Rockford, Ill., a city of 150,000, is the first of the so-called market-rate housing being developed by Zion Development Corp., which itself is an offshoot of efforts of the more than century old Zion Lutheran Church to serve needs in its nearby community.

That began with Swedish and Norwegian immigrants who first started coming to the city in the 1850s. It has continued today with the development of various rental units for those who could otherwise not afford an apartment. The Lofts is the next step.

The project is an effort “to create a vibrant neighborhood where middle-class and working class people interact, shop, and work together,” according to Chuck Sweeney, a columnist with the Rockford Register-Star.

The green aspect is a sign of the times. “Sustainability is becoming a buzzword these days,” said Brad Roos, executive director of Zion Development. “We are really putting the concept into practice.”

When completed in 2009, the project will consist of seven condominiums, a coffee shop, and a meeting room.



GOING SOLAR

Ten solar panels were hoisted to the roof of the four-story building. Each measures 82-by 42-by-3.4 inches and weighs 135 pounds. “In this energy-efficient system, water is preheated and tankless water heaters provide the final temperature boost to individual condos,” said Roos.

In addition, a flow meter was installed. “This has the latest sensing technology, allowing us to accurately monitor the solar water heating system,” said Len Salvig, owner of Hybrid Renewables Inc. “This monitor enables us to provide real-time readouts on the first floor for viewing.”



Ten solar panels were hoisted to the roof of the four-story building.

GOING GEO

As part of the construction, Rockford Geothermal drilled 14 holes into the ground, each 300 feet deep to sink the geothermal piping. The technology is used to heat and cool the first floor housing, the coffee bar and meeting space. “The geothermal heating system uses pumps to transfer heat from the ground to the building and reverses the process for cooling,” said Roos.

Roos said he hoped the resulting project will provide what he called “a teaching tool for the wider community” in terms of sustainability possibilities. The Lofts has already been designated a green demonstration site. And Zion Development won the first Winnebago County Green Business Award for small businesses.

Interestingly, both solar and geothermal rely on the sun. The solar is obvious with the collection panels. But advocates of geothermal also point out that the technology relies on the earth’s natural thermal energy with the energy in a constant state of replenishment primarily by absorbing the sun’s energy.



As part of the construction, 14 holes were drilled into the ground to sink geothermal piping.

WHAT COMES AROUND ...

Even though the project looks primarily to the future of environmental technology, it does have a sense of history. The building undergoing renovation was erected in 1895.

On the ground floor where there is now a coffee shop, there was originally another retail establishment, a pharmacy owned by the Lantow family for which the building is named.

The upper floors with the seven condos were once used for 12 efficiency apartments housing those Scandinavian immigrants.

Publication Date: 03/09/2009

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