If Missouri University of Science and Technology wasn’t already on your list of hot schools, now its day has come. Missouri S&T has just broken ground on a new geothermal energy project that will replace three decades-old power plants that currently burn coal and wood chips. The new system will reduce the school’s carbon dioxide emissions by more than 25,000 tons per year. It will also save an initial $1 million per year in energy costs with savings eventually rising to $2.8 million per year.
Just as importantly, the school’s public profile stands to benefit from a modernized energy system. In this day and age, when geothermal energy and other alternative energy forms are emerging into the mainstream, dependency on sorely out-of-date equipment doesn’t exactly position a high tech institution – or business, for that matter – on the cutting edge.
Clean energy for a high tech school
The new geothermal plant was approved for financing in 2010. One major motivation for going with a whole new system was the fact that the old system was facing a $26 million bill just for replacing antiquated parts including boilers and steam lines.
Also on the campus wish list was the modernization and expansion of facilities for the school’s chemistry, biological sciences, and chemical/biological engineering programs, which are currently housed in a single building. With the campus set for a makeover, the timing was right for switching to new clean infrastructure rather than simply upgrading the old system.
Missouri S&T’s geothermal plan
The new geothermal system will take about five years to construct. It consists of 600 wells connected by a network of pipes to three geothermal plants. Two of the plants will be housed in existing buildings and the third will take up residence in the new chem/bio engineering building. When completed in 2014, the system will heat 15 buildings on the campus and also provide energy to cool the school’s chilled-water system.
According to S&T Chancellor Cheryl B. Schrader, the new system will be “one of the most comprehensive ever undertaken by a college or university.”
Schrader explained in a press statement that “several campuses have created small-scale geothermal systems to provide energy for a residence hall – or perhaps to a few buildings on campus, but only a few other campuses in this nation have ever attempted to construct a system on a campuswide scale.”
Walking the clean tech walk
The new geothermal system underscores how institutions and businesses can use new clean tech infrastructure to build a green brand that supports and promotes their core technology mission – a lesson being learned by Google, Facebook and other companies in the tech field.
Geothermal is also coming into play as a means for institutions, businesses and public facilities to grow within their current location without increasing their energy bill or expanding their carbon footprint, one recent example being a new geothermal system for an airport in Portland, Maine.
Follow Tina Casey on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.