Geothermal project reaps award from statewide environmental advocate

Topics: Sustainability/Environment, Geothermal, Administrative

November 4, 2010

The Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC) will recognize Ball State University as its Technology Innovator of the Year during the organization's third annual Green Policy Forum on Nov. 6.

In 2009, Ball State University broke ground on a new ground-source geothermal district heating and cooling system that, once completed, will be the largest district system in the country.  The project will serve as a national model, demonstrating that district geothermal is a feasible and economically viable option. When complete, the system will replace four coal-fired boilers and save the university significant operating costs — not to mention reduce its carbon footprint by approximately half.

The project is stimulating jobs in Indiana as well, creating work for 44 firms in 15 counties from Fort Wayne to Evansville. More information about the project can be found at www.bsu.edu/geothermal.

"Ball State is truly leading by example," said HEC Executive Director Jesse Kharbanda.  "When it came time to make a decision about future energy needs, the university made a choice that not only benefits its bottom line but the environment as well."

"We have made great effort and invested considerable resources through the years to make Ball State a 'greener' and healthier campus," said President Jo Ann M. Gora. "Our geothermal project is the largest and therefore, perhaps, most visible example of that commitment. But the unassuming all-electric vehicle we use now to distribute our campus mail is no less important. Each demonstrates the boldness of our thinking — in terms large and small — about lessening Ball State's environmental impact and encouraging others to do the same."

Randy Howard, Ball State's vice president for business affairs and treasurer, indicated that the project is on schedule to shut down two of the existing coal-fired boilers in the fall of 2011. A $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy — its largest ever for a ground-source geothermal project — combined with continual design engineering focused on improving efficiencies will allow the university to shut down a third boiler the following autumn.

"We are actively pursuing additional funding for the final phases that will allow us to complete this pioneering project," said Howard. "We have been seeking additional federal funds and developing relationships with both corporate and philanthropic interests that may wish to become associated financially with such a historic undertaking."

The HEC honor is the second in a month for Ball State, coming quickly on the heels of the university being nationally recognized by the American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). Ball State's excellence in effecting environmental change was recognized with the Oct. 13 awarding of the 2010 Second Nature Climate Leadership Award. The Second Nature awards recognize the best examples of how institutions of higher education are shifting behavior on campus and within communities to make a low-carbon economy possible. The award citation refers, specifically, to Ball State's installation of a ground-source geothermal heating and cooling system and its economic and environmental benefits. 

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