Geothermal project nears completion of first phase

It's a business of absolute multitasking and taking advantage of the perfect situation. While many students were away from Ball State during the summer and construction was happening on so many buildings around campus, it was the perfect time to get the geothermal project going, and going fast.

Director of Engineering, Construction and Operations Jim Lowe and construction crews have been working speedily to get various construction efforts around campus completed before the fall. But the major project is finishing up the major step of the geothermal project: drilling all the boreholes.

"All 18,000 boreholes around campus are done, and we are already reestablishing the parking lot west of Carmichael Hall," Lowe said.

He said throughout the summer the construction crews have been working simultaneously with the other projects going on around campus. Buildings, such as Kinghorn Hall, North Quad and the Student Wellness and Recreation Facility, that were under construction already were hooked up via connecting pipeline to the geothermal project.

In addition, other buildings on campus, such as the Amelia T. Wood Health Center, Lewellen Pool and the courtyard near the Whitinger Business Building and Bracken Library, have received pipeline hookups.

"With the piping, we took every opportunity to get through the problem areas like Carmichael Hall when you can't do the construction during the academic year because of the service vehicles," Lowe said.

Lowe estimated, along with his head IT, that 45 percent of all Phase 1 piping was installed.
"It was a great process," Lowe said. "Now we are moving ahead, constructing a building by the satellite yard."

He said they excavated the area and created a basement. The building will house the pump and connectivity to the geothermal distribution center and control center along with the tillers on the north side of campus.

Magdelynn Pollaro, co-president of Students for a Sustainable Campus, said though students may see ripped up roads and disturbed ground, the efforts are all for a cleaner energy.

"I know everyone is waiting for it to be done, but it's hard," she said. "Its important to find different ways to be sustainable and it affects our future. Coal will not be there forever."

The geothermal plan, when fully implemented, promises to cut Ball State's energy costs by about $2 million annually, eliminate two coal boilers and reduce the university's overall carbon footprint by roughly half, according to a Ball State press release.


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