Public Villarrica`s school keeps warm with geothermal energy

Monday, 05 de December

The inclusion of clean energies is part of the success of the Voipir Ñancul School educational project.

The Voipir Ñancul School is located 8 km from Villarrica (Araucanía Region) , and it is a public school that uses geothermal energy for heating areas for 235 children, who attend classes every day.

After its remodeling in 2010, offices and classrooms started heating with geothermal energy: profitable, clean and abundant local energy. To achieve this, a system composed by 2 geothermal heat pumps were installed to increase the temperature extracted from underground , keeping an inside temperature at the building between 20 and 22ºC.

Before geothermal energy, the school used firewood to heat the building. Regarding this project, José Morales, school`s director, says that this implied different logistical problems: it was necessary to store the firewood, buy it and transfer it periodically into the classrooms, and also be aware that it was in good condition because there was a salamander inside each room.

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The new system, adds the director, has allowed them to simplify processes and make the temperature of the place more stable. Additionally, this alternative energy has served to reinforce some core values in their students: “We want them to interiorize the care for the environment, so we have been concerned to tell them where the heat comes from”.

In this task, the whole school community has been involved: “The school heating system is known by all, starting with the parents. We want to communicate them that in besides being comfortable and not cold, children are also being part of a school that uses a non-polluting resource”.

Furthermore, José adds: the success of an educational project also depends on the quality of the spaces. On this point he reflects: “I feel that the first thing to contribute to a more egalitarian system is to give dignity to children. What has been built here is very atypical for a public school, because it is a cozy place, which also has an environmentally friendly heating system. On top of this, we have an engaged team, with great vocation to improve the education that students receive in the area”.

Although the lack of maintenance caused that for some time the system was out of operation, a few months ago the school got to repair it. This aspect, they say, has been one of the main difficulties because the equipment needs maintenance at least once a year. In spite of this, they are looking for ways to allocate fixed resources and the necessary technical support”

Parallel to this, the school will continue promoting geothermal energy among their students with different activities, like a talk about volcanoes and geothermal energy presented by CEGA`s researchers Mauricio Muñoz and David Cabellos last December 1st.

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In addition to this, Villarrica City Council and CEGA, will sign a cooperation agreement. The idea, says Alejandra Aillapán, in charge of the Environment Division, is to spread geothermal energy among the community: “We want to replicate this school`s experience in other places. We are convinced that geothermal direct use has a lot of potential. From now on we will work with CEGA to develop projects and support their research”.