Miami utility project uses geothermal technology

Posted on: March 10th, 2014
Miami utility project uses geothermal technology

Miami utility project uses geothermal technology

Miami University will no longer have to burn coal to provide enough energy for the campus. The Dayton Daily News reported that the university is currently constructing a $23 million geothermal system that is expected to save the school about $1 million in operating and maintenance costs each year.

The geothermal plant is under construction on the university’s Western Campus. According to the news source, the green technology will power this portion of the campus and three new residence halls and a dining hall.

“We’re going to change the way we heat and cool the campus… 40 percent of the campus is going to go geothermal by 2025,” Doug Hammerle, Miami’s director of energy systems, told the news source.

The master utility plan for the university details how officials plan to reduce the use of coal for energy. Dayton Daily News reported that the plan calls for the elimination of coal use by 2025 on the Butler County Campus, which serves more than 17,000 students at the moment.

“It’s a very, very ambitious plan,” Hammerle told the news source. “We coupled this utility plan with our long-range housing plan… next year we’re going to shut down all of the east quad. The following year we will close down north quad. When you close down whole sections of campus, you can really do great things with infrastructure improvements. You have the opportunity to change how you do business.”

The eco-friendly technology is 442 percent more energy efficient than a traditional coal-burning system. According to the news source, the initial investment cost is only $10 million more expensive that a coal-burning furnace, which means that the university will recoup the cost within 10 years due to savings. The geothermal conversion is estimated to cost $58.5 million, compared to $42.5 million to maintain and expand current heating and cooling facilities, according to university officials.

In addition, the geothermal system will provide students and researchers with greater research opportunities and educational benefits.

“The student program will set up class participation tours and show students how we can implement these practices in areas of business,” said Cody Powell, Miami University’s vice president of facilities planning and operations. We try to focus most everything we do on looking longer-term. The money we save can be invested in student programming.”

Miami University’s master plan requires that the campus will reduce energy usage from 160,000 BTUs per square foot in 2004 to 120,000 BTUs last year. The Oxford and Hamilton campuses have achieved this mark. The Middleton campus has yet to reach the mark steadily, as it has only reduced its rate from 160,000 BTUs in 2011 to 150,000 units in 2012.

Higher education institutions are working hard to reduce their energy use to limit impact on the environment and to improve operational efficiency. Miami is not the first and will certainly not be the last university system to invest in geothermal technology.

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