Schools make a difference with geothermal heat

Posted on: May 5th, 2014
Schools make a difference with geothermal heat

Schools make a difference with geothermal heat

It’s immensely important for schools and universities to have effective heating systems. Especially as schools have a strict budget to stick to, it’s critical that their heating systems are energy-efficient and cost-effective. Therefore, more school boards are evaluating clean energy options, and in doing so, the benefits of geothermal heating have become increasingly clear. The best part about education systems embracing green energy? These efforts are in turn teaching students to think about sustainability.

A healthier environment and student body
Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., is one school that is making a major eco-friendly commitment. According to The Star Press, the school is completely ending its use of fossil fuel this March after 90 years of burning coal for the boilers that produce steam for heating, hot water, cooking and laundry. One of the primary problems with coal burning is that it releases mercury, which can pollute land and water and cause harm in the food chain via fish. There are other benefits to eliminating coal burning as well. John Vann, associate professor of marketing at BSU, noted that reduced soot and other partriculates will mean less lung problems, such as asthma.

Considering the fact that Ball State burns up to 36,000 tons of coal and releases approximately 85,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually, this recent development is bound to make a significant difference in the school’s eco-footprint. So why did the university decide to act now? The Star Press reported that Ball State would have been forced to implement expensive pollution controls to meet the regulations of the Clean Air Act. Jim Lowe, director of engineering at the university, explained that it made sense to simply finish installing the geothermal system, which was about 1 1/2 years away from completion. The university’s geothermal district energy solution is the largest of its kind in the entire nation. The system essentially taps the Earth for stored heat, which it then uses to supply warmth for the campus buildings as well as heat the water.

Teaching the green mindset
Now, Ball State is looking to expand its geothermal initiatives. In a recent public meeting, architect R. Wayne Estopinal, a member of the university’s board of trustees, revealed that there had been some discussion about constructing a geothermal interpretive center on campus. This would give students insight into the underground geothermal system and how it works. In the meantime, Ball State has been funding geothermal conferences throughout the year to educate both faculty and students about the system.

“We hope to continue to share with folks what we know, what others know and what is yet to be learned,” said Lowe, as quoted by The Star Press. “We learn every day with this system.” reported that the Westtown School, a historic boarding school in Chester County, Pa., is making similar efforts. The school recently invested in a $13 million science center that features an array of different state-of-the-art green technologies. The building is not only LEED certified, but also includes solar panels and a geothermal heating and cooling system.

“The building itself is a teaching model about science and sustainability,” said director of capital programs Ted Lutkus, according to the news outlet.

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