Planned Geothermal System Will Allow Ball State University to Shut Down Coal Plant
By Robert Koester, Professor of Architecture and Director of the Center for Energy Research/Education/Service, Ball State University
Ball State University continues to expand its efforts to meet its commitments under the ACUPCC, which was signed by President Jo Ann Gora, one of the twelve founding members of the leadership circle. Most recently, the Board of Trustees has approved installation of a campus-wide geothermal heating/cooling system, which will allow the university to shut down its coal plant that currently produces 85,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually. The installation of this system when complete will reduce Ball State’s greenhouse gas CO2 equivalent impact by nearly 50 percent in on-campus energy conversion. This project—the largest in the country—will commence installation on May 11, the Monday following spring graduation, and will take five to ten years to complete.
The closed-loop system will not disturb existing aquifers and will consist of four bore-hole fields located throughout campus—in some cases under recreational areas, in other cases parking lots, and in a few instances open green space within the campus quadrangle areas. Each of the bore-hole fields will have a grid work of 5-inch diameter bore-holes that will be drilled to a depth of 450 feet; into these holes will be inserted a u-shaped loop of piping that then will be grouted to the walls of the hole to maximize the thermal conduction between the earth and the clear water that will be flowing through the tubes. At a depth of five feet below finished grade, these bore-hole loops will be connected and routed to three different energy stations located throughout the campus. In each of the energy stations, a heat pump technology will be used to transfer energy into hot water and chilled water supply sides. The hot water will run at a temperature of some 140 degrees Fahrenheit and the chilled water at approximately 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
These hot-water and chilled-water distribution loops will be connected to more than 40 buildings on campus to enable the localized heat exchange/air handling systems in those buildings to distribute energy during the heating and cooling cycles of the year. The horizontal looping network of supply and return lines from the energy stations to the many buildings on campus also can be used to re-distribute energy from one building to another; for a given building that is overheating or under-heating, energy can be exported or imported to or from an adjacent facility experiencing the opposite energy need.
This looping/energy station technology will use the multiplier effect of heat pump physics. Specifically, for every watt-hour of energy consumption needed to run the heat pump devices, many more watts of energy exchange will occur in the removal of heat from the chilled water and the transfer of heat into the hot water legs of the system. This leveraging effect is often referred to as a coefficient of performance (COP), a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratios (SEER) or a Heating Season Performance Factor (HSPF).
With the elimination of the coal-fired boilers on campus, the university will be able to deconstruct the accompanying smokestack located near the edge of campus; because of the chilled water production of the geothermal system the university also will be able to remove cooling towers on the existing chilled water plant. Although the geothermal system will require electricity consumption beyond the current electrical energy use on campus, the next stage of opportunity presented will be for the university to pursue onsite electrical production—using PV panels located at or on buildings, selected parking areas and/or selected recreational facilities—and to purchase green power from the grid—supplied from some of the numerous wind farms currently under construction throughout the state.
These moves will enable the university to substantially meet the greenhouse gas reductions required under the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment. Other phases of greenhouse gas production of course comprise Scope 2 and Scope 3 emissions; these were cataloged in Ball State’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory last summer and those too will be topics of conversation yet this year as the university determines best ways of using the tools of administrative policy, education of consumers, and operational practices to dial-down, eliminate and/or offset the Scope 2 and Scope 3 Greenhouse Gases.
Ball State University will be sharing more information about this project at the Greening of the Campus Conference VIII in Indianapolis this year which is being offered jointly by Ball State University and the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. The conference will include more workshops than ever before, a Greening of the Campus Exposition and significant keynote speakers. More information about the conference can be found at www.bsu.edu/greening. Registration will be opened within the next few weeks and hotels will be holding rooms for attendees.
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