Spotlight - Mine Water Powers Energy-Saving Geothermal System For Pittsburgh Church
The Herron Avenue Corridor Coalition in Pittsburgh's Hill District recently held an unveiling ceremony at the John Wesley A.M.E. Zion church to demonstrate the geothermal heating and cooling system using abandoned mine water from an early 1800s mine to heat and cool the church.
Cost savings are estimated to be 75 percent to 80 percent for heating and 50 percent for cooling.
The Herron Avenue Corridor Coalition, through Wesley A.M.E. Charities, was awarded over $80,000 from a Pennsylvania Energy Harvest Grant through the Department of Environmental Protection in 2007 to build the system. An additional $12,000 was awarded by the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds.
"Creating a 'green corridor ' along Herron Avenue is our overall vision. We believe being able to offer lowered heating costs as much as 75 percent to 80 percent and reduced cooling costs up to 50 percent is an attractive feature a developer will incorporate into a green design commercial, residential or mixed-use building on the adjacent vacant property," said Pastor Calvin Cash of the John Wesley A.M.E. Zion Church.
With the geothermal system in place, about 2,400 square feet of the church will be heated and cooled. The remaining unused opportunity from this mine water will allow for a 40,000 square foot building to be tied into the geothermal vault that could realize the same or similar electric savings. Western Pennsylvania Geothermal Heating and Cooling installed the system.
In fall 2004, the Department of Environmental Protection's Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation conducted a $106,000 project that drained a mine pool in excess of 50 million gallons from a location adjacent to the John Wesley A.M.E. Zion Church.
A permanent drain pipe was installed on the mine floor which safely drains into the stormwater and sanitary sewer drainage system beneath the street. The abandoned coal mine water flows at a constant rate of 100 gallons per minute and maintains a constant temperature of 55-degree Fahrenheit.
"Abandoned mine drainage is an environmental detriment, but this project gives mine water a beneficial use that is clean, while heating and cooling our church and offering tremendous savings on our utility bill. In the bigger picture, the success of this project will act as a demonstration project as a sustainable, home-grown heating and cooling source from other abandoned mine water sites across the state," Pastor Cash said.
Mine water at this site is of fairly good quality with a pH of about 4.0, with low concentrations of metals.
The Herron Avenue Corridor Coalition was a recipient of an Urban Land Institute grant in 2006 for $24,700, which was used to study development opportunities and design between this location and Brighton Road in the North Side.
This was initiated by the Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority, who engaged Carnegie Mellon Universityfs Urban Lab to conduct community meetings and design options for the redevelopment of Herron Avenue. The Urban lab has published the results; geothermal use is part of that plan.
A traffic study completed in the Spring of 2007 by the City of Pittsburgh found 9,200 vehicles travel Herron Avenue daily, demonstrating the potential for this Brownfield corridor.
Additionally, Find The Rivers! completed a detailed trail project that incorporates sites along Herron Avenue that will compliment the green theme and adds historic value along with scenic discovery through its walking and biking trail.


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