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Geothermal Energy Helps Parish Conserve Environment, Save Money

Updated: August 12, 2008 06:06 AM GMT
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A new church building that uses geothermal energy for its air-conditioning system is helping the parish save money as well as energy. ko_daejeon.gifFather Aloysius Bang Kyeong-seok, parish priest of Kasuwon Church in Daejeon diocese, told UCA News on Aug. 6 that his parish is the "first in the country" to employ such an eco-friendly system. According to an official of government-run Korea Energy Management Corporation (KEMC), this system makes use of the constant temperature of soil or water 150 meters below ground to cool or warm the air in buildings. This official, who asked not to be named, told UCA News that a special pump brings warm air into buildings during the winter, and does the opposite in summer. Korea´s hot summer runs from mid-June to mid-September, while the cold winter is from November to March. According to Father Bang, the geothermal cooling and heating system "is very quiet and makes the indoor air pleasant and fresh." It is also "easy to use and cheap to maintain," he added. Before the new parish building was constructed in late 2006, Father Bang and his parish pastoral council members discussed possibly using eco-friendly sources of energy, such as solar or geothermal energy for air-conditioning. They learned that solar energy depends much on the availability of sunshine but the geothermal system provides a "constant temperature" irrespective of weather. "For this reason, we chose geothermal energy," the priest said. His parish, established in 1979, now has about 1,100 parishioners. Due to a redevelopment project in Daejeon City, the church moved to its present place at the foot of a mountain. The new building was completed in February. Daejeon is 140 kilometers south of Seoul. The church occupies the second story of the three-story facility. A parish office, residences for priests and nuns, a hall and a cafe for parishioners are on the other floors. The geothermal system is installed in the basement. Anthony Jeong Won-sam, president of the parish pastoral council, told UCA News Aug. 6 that when they were discussing using geothermal energy, "we were not very sure of its efficiency" because it was "not well known." Jeong said Father Bang, who is keen to conserve the environment, pushed for the installation of the system, which cost about 120 million won (US$118,000). Vianney Kim Jin-soo, a parish official, told UCA News on Aug. 6 that their concerns about whether it would really save energy were put to rest one month after the system became operational. The parish paid about 710,000 won for its July electricity bill, Kim said, while neighboring parishes that use more conventional air-conditioning systems pay about 1.5 million won per month during the summer. Father James Kim Moon-soo, procurator of Daejeon diocese, told UCA News on Aug. 7 that the diocese now has two parishes using renewable energy. The other parish uses solar energy. Father Kim said, "Eco-friendly elements and energy saving are important in modern architecture." The Church "is slow to adopt such trends in church buildings," he added, but it should promote the use of renewable energy. The KEMC official claims that his organization subsidizes 50 percent of construction costs for facilities that use renewable energy, but Kasuwon parish failed to get the subsidy because it did not meet certain criteria. According to the official, renewable energy in 2006 accounted for 2.4 percent of Korea´s primary energy consumption, including oil, coal and gas. That figure rose from just 0.7 percent a decade earlier. Church records show that Daejeon diocese, led by Bishop Lazzaro You Heung-sik, has 262 priests who serve 112 parishes and 73 mission stations. Meanwhile, the Environmental Pastoral Committee of Seoul archdiocese says only one of the 215 parishes in the archdiocese now uses solar energy. END

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