Notre Dame Turns to Geothermal Fields to Reduce CO2

In an effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the University of Notre Dame has added three underground geothermal fields.

The South Bend, Indiana, school reports that one field is up and running, with the other two expected to be fully functional by 2018 and 2019. The three fields are expected to reduce the school’s carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 11,800 tons, an 8% reduction compared to 2016. The fields will also allow Notre Dame to increase energy security and capitalize on long-term cost savings.

According to nd.edu:

Notre Dame’s systems work by circulating water in a closed-loop piping system to a depth of roughly 300 feet before returning it to the surface and distributing it through an energy center that acts as a heat exchanger. The heat from the Earth warms the water in the pipes to a constant elevated temperature of approximately 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit, thereby reducing the amount of energy required to produce the desired hot or cold indoor air temperatures.

The total capacity of all of the proposed systems is 7,000 tons, or approximately one-half of the University’s current peak demand during the cooling season.

The estimated cost of these systems is approximately $40 million. However, the University expects to see a return on investment in about 15 years.

In total, the school is investing $113 million in renewable energy sources and projects. In addition to geothermal, the University is looking to expand its renewable energy portfolio to include a 2.25 megawatt hydroelectric project on the St. Joseph River in partnership with the city of South Bend.

In 2014 it was reported that Ball State University in Indiana announced plans to retire its four coal-fired boilers after almost 70 years of use and replacing them with a geothermal energy system. The $80 million geothermal project – consisting of 3,600 boreholes – was implemented to heat and cool 47 buildings on campus. The changeover was expected to take the school from consuming about 36,000 tons of coal a year to renewable energy, while saving $2 million a year in operating costs.

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