FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (Sept. 16, 2010) - The new Midwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility will save money and the environment with help of the ground below it.

The new 464-bed facility, which opens in October, uses geothermal heat pump energy to lower green house gas emissions and cut energy costs by $100,000 a year. The system relies on 480 geothermal wells, each 280 feet deep, with high-density polyethylene water-filled tubes that take heat from the ground and pump it into the building for the winter and carry the summer's heat into the ground for cooling in the summer.

"This is the first geothermal technology used in Leavenworth and the potential savings are significant," said Albert Fleumer, the installation energy manager with the Directorate of Logistics and Public Works. "We are using this as a test and validation of concepts."

The total system cost for the heat pump is approximately $2 million, much more than an air-source system with the same heating and cooling capacity. However, after 20 years, the savings in energy will cover the initial expense.

"Twenty years is not bad for a project of this scope and magnitude," Fleumer said, especially considering the low estimated cost of maintenance compared with a traditional air system.

The geothermal heat pump is just one of many efforts to reduce energy costs, which are important considering Fort Leavenworth spent $1.24 million on electricity in August.

Fort Leavenworth's energy consumption helped persuade builders to look toward different options when building the new facility.

"We can't do wind or solar," Fleumer said, "so we are trying to incorporate as many technologies as we can."

Fort Leavenworth's efforts are part of a broader Defense Department push to lower usage of fossil fuels and reduce costs. In addition, the Energy Act of 2005 requires a cost-effective energy conservation and management plan for all new government facilities.

There are a few steps Fleumer said residents on post can take to reduce energy consumption and save money: running all washers, driers and dishwashers after 8 p.m., setting air conditioning in homes to 78 degrees and changing all light bulbs to compact florescent bulbs.

"The question is, can I get people to turn the lights off or deal with it being a little hotter in the offices'" he said.

Fleumer said he believes he can.

"We can do better," he said. "Our culture in the past is not one of conservation, but that's something we are trying to fix."

Editor's note: Shauna Blackmon is a University of Kansas intern working in the Combined Arms Center Strategic Communications Office.