In November of 2014 Missouri S&T finished the geothermal energy project that it had been working on for four years. The project had two main goals; reduce the university’s environmental footprint and cut energy costs. The specific goals of the project were to cut annual energy use by 50%, reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 25,000 tons per year, and reduce water usage by 10,000,000 gallons per year. Five years on and the project has exceeded expectations in every area. This year there was an energy savings of 60%, slightly more than 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide emission reduction, and almost 20,000,000 gallons of water saved. University officials are hopeful that the future holds even more promise of savings. Ted Ruth, the assistant vice chancellor of facilities services says that the project is hoping to expand to more buildings, such as Toomey Hall.
A study completed by the National Wildlife Federation found that if each of the countries 4,100 universities and colleges switched to geothermal energy there would be a cost savings of $2-$7 billion and could see a carbon footprint reduction equivalent to 1 percent of total US emissions. These projects have other benefits ranging from student comfort to the creation of jobs. Buildings heated and cooled by geothermal energy require less energy to control the temperature meaning that it is easier to keep classrooms or the fitness center at a constant temperature.
Geothermal energy works by tapping into the heat under the surface of the Earth. There are many different ways to use this heat, but Missouri S&T uses a closed loop system. This means that pipes have been run deep below the campus and a mixture of water and antifreeze constantly circulate within them. In the winter, temperatures deep below the surface are higher so the water is heated and then pumped back up, circulating through heat exchangers to create hot air. In the summer the pipes help to draw the heat away from buildings and become absorbed into the upper sections of the crust.
Missouri S&T has always been at the forefront of research and is not afraid to be one of the first groups to implement a new idea. Just look at the LAMP lab large scale additive manufacturing metal 3D printer, one of only two in the world. So, when the school decided to implement geothermal energy on the campus it was ahead of the curve, which lead to groundbreaking understandings. In 2013 the plan for the project helped the university win the Climate Leadership Award and in 2016 the system won the ASHRAE St. Louis chapter Technology Award.
The future is bright for the project. Due to the increase in efficiency the expected payback time period has now been reduced to only 7 years. Right at the completion of the initial project Bertelsmeyer Hall was added proving that this project can be expanded to encompass the entire campus in the future with relative ease. There have also been many benefits that are not immediately apparent, such as running the pipes below sidewalks and parking lots, allowing for easier snow and ice removal. As the project moves forward campus officials remain hopeful that more benefits will be brought forward and that Missouri S&T can remain at the forefront of research and application as well as a leader across the world in environmental sustainability.