Rasmus Jorgensen | October 22, 2017
In search of savings and lower carbon emissions, Notre Dame is employing a new heating and cooling system: planet Earth.
Three geothermal fields have been installed across campus in the past year, capable of pushing a total of 3,000 tons of water 300 feet down into the earth’s crust. Down there, the temperature maintains a constant range of 50 to 55 degrees, whatever the weather at the surface.
That consistency allows the closed-loop piping system, which returns the liquid to the surface and distributes it through an energy center, to help heat buildings in the winter and cool them in the summer using less coal and gas energy. The water in underground pipes stays closer to the temperature needed throughout the year, reducing the demand for fossil-fuel heating and cooling sources, and limiting the harmful emissions they produce.
That’s good for the environment and also for the Irish pot of gold. Because of the reduction in heating and cooling expenses, the University expects these geothermal systems, installed at a cost of about $40 million, to pay for themselves within 15 years.
“If I can demonstrate a payback and reduce my carbon footprint, it’s a win-win opportunity,” says Paul Kempf, Notre Dame’s senior director of utilities and maintenance. “And then over time if we’re saving money, then the University is in a better position to take those savings and roll them back in and keep investing in sustainability.”
Only one of the three geothermal fields is currently operational. The others are expected to begin running over the next two years.
The active field is located under the grassy quad east of the Hesburgh Library and south of the new McCourtney science and engineering research building. The system provides 150 tons of heating and cooling capacity specifically for the nearby Ricci Band Building and the ROTC’s Pasquerilla Center.