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03/08/2012 11:40 AM     print story email story  

Ball State University Converts from Coal to Geothermal News

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:


Reader Comments (3)


Date Posted:
03/09/12 05:01 PM

Wow, this is really cool and hot! I'll be anxious to hear how it turns out. My one question is can geothermal actually bring indoor temps up to 70 degrees? Or will another source be needed to make up the difference between ground temperature and the needed indoor temps?

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Date Posted:
06/03/12 02:47 AM

Ya don't need reservoirs with Hydro Temp com 4Synergy Systems.Harrisburg PA 3100 sq ft and adual crmsoespor has the first zone = to 80% of the first crmsoespor so it runs 12-14 minutes, and the mixing keeps heads pressures at crmsoespors safely above any failure. no reservior, under 100/ month and just a single 1.1/2 radiant loop, con do same with any small boiler + larger boiler or staging not just GT. and only 750 ft SERIES 1.1/4 ground loop in 54 degrees

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A. G. Gelbert

Date Posted:
10/31/14 05:51 PM

@Landmine, Passive Geothermal using new super efficient heat pump technology can both heat buildings in winter ABOVE 70F and cool them in summer as well. The key is proper insulation. The Norwegian buildings for well over a decade can actually maintain a constant temperature in the dead of winter with human body heat because they are so well insulated. And this is without passive geothermal heating! Amory Lovins on Energy Efficiency Breakthroughs (real world 90% plus waste reduction) that seem hard to believe: "Only puny secrets need protection; big discoveries are protected by public incredulity." 2012 newer info from Lovins: "If the new flameless fire is used properly (i.e. investing the profit into nature in order to achieve and sustain a Viable Biosphere instead of using the technofix greedily and stupidly to expand the economy and the population), we can make it do our work without it working our undoing." Amory Lovins We need fossil fuels like a hole in the head. More info here:

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