Johnstown Thermal Energy Project

Orange oxide is deposited on the stream bank at the discharge. The orange oxide would later be eliminated by the geothermal project.

The Johnstown Project proposes turning an environmental liability into a revenue opportunity, resulting in cost savings, improved water quality, and significant energy savings.

In 2011, in conjunction with other revitalization efforts in downtown Johnstown, PEC established a project team to explore potential use of polluted mine water for a closed-loop geothermal system to produce heating and cooling for one or more customers. With funding from the Community Foundation of the Alleghenies, Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds, Lift Johnstown, Penelec Sustainable Energy Fund, and Cambria County Conservation District, PEC hired eCap Network and CJL Engineering to conduct a preliminary assessment of project potential.

The assessment identified a large, institutional customer with interest in purchasing heating and cooling from the proposed system. The revenue generated by selling the heating and cooling would allow for the treatment of abandoned mine drainage (AMD), which could eliminate the discharge at the Point in downtown Johnstown, which produces a noxious odor that detracts from community improvement efforts and negatively impacts the Connemaugh Watershed.

An investment grade assessment completed in 2015, found that while the project was technically viable, it was not economically feasible, in part because the proposed customer was already running its heating and cooling system at maximum efficiency and reducing the potential for cost-savings. Fortunately, this same customer is planning a new construction project, which will also be located above the mine pool. It will be much more cost-effective to integrate the use of geothermal into the new building than to retrofit the existing systems. Without this study, geothermal would not have been a part of future construction plans, but now is under strong consideration.

The geothermal system would reduce annual electricity use by 8 percent, resulting in an annual cost savings of more than $230,000.
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