Ball State University in Indiana is building the largest closed geothermal heat pump system in the US.
It replaces four antiquated coal boilers and will provide heating and cooling for 47 buildings on 730 acres - almost half the campus. The $70 million project will save $2 million a year in operating costs.
In this one stroke, the university is cutting its greenhouse gas footprint in half.
The vertical, closed-loop district system uses only fresh water. A geothermal heat pump uses the Earth as either a heat source, when operating in heating mode, or a heat sink, when operating in cooling mode.
The availability of very large capacity heat pump chillers that have come to market in the past 5-6 years makes the project possible, says Ball.
Construction will continue throughout 2013-2014 and will include a District Energy Station containing two 2,500-ton heat pump chillers and a hot water loop around the south portion of campus. The system will then connect to all buildings on campus - eventually providing heating and cooling to 5.5 million square feet.
"When costs began to escalate for the installation of a new fossil fuel burning boiler, the university began to evaluate other renewable energy options," says Jim Lowe, director of engineering, construction and operations. "This led to the decision to convert the campus to a more efficient geothermal-based heating and cooling system."
Going geothermal is also having a positive impact on the economy. The system is American-made and is supporting an estimated 2300 direct and indirect jobs for contractors and suppliers, many of them from Indiana. Manufacturers supplying the project are increasing production.
"This project debunks the erroneous assumption that clean energy projects are too expensive or impractical to be adopted by cost-conscious businesses and consumers. The best ones, like Ball State's geothermal energy system, are a boon to the economy as well as the environment," says Ball's website.
The university also requires all new campus construction to be LEED certified.
The project has caught the attention of other universities and communities across the US. Lowe is sharing information about it with them so they can learn how to benefit from geothermal.
Learn about Ball's sustainability initiatives.
Learn more about Ball's geothermal system: