Curacautín school abandons firewood to heat its classrooms with geothermal energy

Friday, 01 de July
  • The project is the result of a joint effort between the Access and Social Development Division of the Ministry of Energy and the Andean Geothermal Center of Excellence (CEGA).
  • The system maintains the rooms at a constant temperature and eliminates the particulate matter generated by the old slow combustion system.
  • In addition to heating all the spaces that previously used firewood, the system installed provides sanitary hot water in the school’s dressing rooms.

The Luis Cruz Martínez School in Curacautín started up the first winter heated with geothermal energy for direct use, leaving behind the use of firewood in the school’s classrooms, library, laboratory, offices and dining room.

The initiative, financed by the Undersecretary of Energy and executed by the Andean Geothermal Center of Excellence (CEGA) of the Universidad de Chile, sought to provide a solution to the environmental damage that the use of slow combustion systems generate inside and outside the classrooms.

“We made a measurement with sensors inside the room and found that the use of firewood generates the same level of contaminating particles as those in the air on a day of environmental pre-emergency. That is the same as if one of the children in the room smoked a cigarette a day,” explained Karin García, CEGA researcher and project coordinator.

“We no longer depend on buying, stockpiling and putting firewood in the woods. The geothermal system works alone and constantly, keeping the air cleaner inside and outside the room. It is very important for our students to know that they are contributing to the decontamination of their city. Geothermal energy is the energy of the future and at LCM we already use it,” said Evelyn Dubreuil, the school’s principal.

Diego Morata, director of CEGA, pointed out that thanks to its efficiency, the system will not only reduce polluting emissions and avoid the felling of native forests, but will also mean economic savings for the municipality.

“The heat pumps used occupy a third of what would be spent on electric heating and, thanks to the thermostats installed in the fan coils, the system turns on and off autonomously when the temperature for which they are configured is reached, without generating extra energy costs”, Morata explained, remarking that “geothermal energy is clean, cost-efficient and sustainable, which will improve learning conditions and coexistence within the school”.

The Minister of Energy, Claudio Huepe, highlighted the importance of energy access projects in rural schools and their social impact: “One of our main concerns as a Ministry is to close the energy access gaps that affect communities in rural areas, with attention to their children and adolescents, from a rights-based approach. In this sense, rural schools are multifunctional spaces that provide much more than education: they provide food, hygiene and care for students, and function as a community meeting place. Projects such as the sustainable heating and hot water system for the Luis Cruz Martínez School are in line with our focus on equitable access to quality energy, positively impacting the health, attendance and even the performance of students, and benefiting the entire school community”.