WINIFRED — Montana State University is conducting research in the town of Winifred in central Montana, installing boreholes and geothermal fields at the K-12 school and four homes.
Norm Asbjornson, MSU alumni and founder and president of AAON, approached associate professor Kevin Amende to see if there was interest in adding value to the heating and cooling world, through his hometown of Winifred.
Amende goes on to note that this project gives them the opportunity to research in a way that is not typical.
Winifred is a small town in Fergus County with a population of 177 people.
The K-12 school was planning a $4 million dollar remodel, until Asbjornson and Amende approached the board with an idea.
“Norm personally donated approximately $40 million for the school expansion. The bore field there is a part of that donation,” Amende said.
At the school site, 104 boreholes were installed at the school. These geothermal fields act as a ‘big battery’ for heating and cooling.
A part of the research will determine if this is economically sound.
Four residents in Winifred, living in homes owned by Asbjornson, will be having these fields installed in their homes as well.
One of those families is the Wichmans. Gordon Wichman describes how this project can protect the town's future.
“Anything that helps Winifred grow or maintain at least, because it seems like every small town, if they’re not growing they’re dying,” Wichman said.
Workers have been installing boreholes at his home, and he awaits the results of the research conducted.
“It could make it more cost-effective to live in a rural place where you’re having to heat and cool your house, and not everyone has natural gas out here, so going to the geothermal if it’s cost-effective to put it in, then I could see it being a big impact,” Wichman said.