Global Tower Partners has deployed the first geothermally cooled wireless site in the small village of Bluemont at the base of the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains in northern Virginia. Working in partnership with REHAU, a Leesburg, Va., a global company known for providing plastics for cars and airplanes, the tower company deployed the stealth, alternative energy source to power a cell site located next to the historic Bluemont Grain Elevator.
Loudon County officials had been promoting the 70-foot tall grain elevator, which was built in 1905 and abandoned during the Depression, as a cell site for many years, but it is a registered historic landmark making it difficult to develop. Ultimately, a memorandum of understanding was required with the Virginia State Historic Preservation Office and the FCC.
With a residential area nearby, the noise from air conditioning and heating units was going to be untenable and available space was limited. In order to maintain the historic feel of the grain elevator and the area and because early 1900s buildings did not have air conditioners hanging off of them, geothermal was the answer that allowed GTP to essentially hide the heating and cooling infrastructure.
“To create a much-needed cellular site that maintains the historical look and feel of this Virginia village was a huge undertaking,” stated Tim Dennis, GTP’s site development director on the Bluemont project. “After spending eight years to see this project through to fruition, we’ve created an infrastructure to serve thousands of wireless customers while preserving the significance of Bluemont’s history and providing an environmentally-friendly energy solution at the same time,” added Dennis.
Key to the undertaking was GTP’s relationship with REHAU, which entered heating and cooling in 2010. REHAU created the tools and extruded plastic pipe and provided the engineering and process to circulate the water underground to heat and cool the base station technology.
The resulting solution provides an environmentally sound cooling and heating system by utilizing the sub-surface conductive heat transfer where temperatures of the earth’s crust are used as a heat sink in the summer months and a heat source in the winter.
“The solution is suitable for controlling the climate of a large structure such as the Bluemont site to provide an efficiently produced and stable climate environment for our tenants’ equipment inside this historic building,” Dennis said.
The Bluemont site may be a one of a kind. GTP has no plans at this time to roll out geothermal systems to its other sites. Dennis estimated that the geothermal solution came at a cost of about twice what it would if five carriers all deployed heating and air conditioning at the site. Although it does cut electrical costs by about 40 percent.
So far, GTP has three tenants. Verizon Wireless has signed a master lease agreement to add service to the tower, joining AT&T and Roadstar.