Ball State University dedicates geothermal system

March 21, 2012
Officials say system will be the nation's largest geothermal heating and cooling system

Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., has dedicated the first phase of a campus geothermal system that will eventually save the school $2 million annually. The new heating and cooling system is projected to cut Ball State’s 85,000 tons of annual carbon dioxide emissions in half.

The U.S. Department of Energy says that the campus-wide installation will be the nation's largest geothermal heating and cooling system.

"The President has made clear that we need an all-of-the-above approach to American energy—an approach that uses homegrown and alternative energy sources designed and produced by American workers," said U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu. "That is why the Energy Department is committed to supporting projects like Ball State's new geothermal system that reduces energy costs, diversifies the university's energy portfolio, and supports good, local jobs."

The geothermal system will replace four aging coal-fired boilers and provide renewable power to heat and cool 47 university building—a total of 5.5 million square feet on the 660-acre Muncie campus. Eliminating the coal-fired equipment will result in 36,000 fewer tons of coal being burned every year.

The geothermal heat pump removes the heat from the fluid in the Earth and transfers it to the building. For cooling, the pump removes heat from the building and transfers it back into the Earth. The completed project will have 3,600 boreholes drilled around campus.

Ball State President Jo Ann M. Gora says the university still needs $20 million to complete the project, and it’s looking into state, federal and grant funding. She said the portion of the system that is already running will save the university $1 million annually and when completed, it will save $2 million annually.

U.S. Sen. Richard Luger sent a videotaped message to the dedication.

“I firmly believe that we must take every step toward energy independence to increase our national security,” the senator says. “The success of Ball State’s geothermal system is an important stride in that direction.”

The dedication ceremony coincided with Ball State's ninth Greening of the Campus national conference.

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