Coal Out, Geothermal In On Missouri Campus

A $32 million geothermal energy project at Missouri University of Science and Technology that gained financing approval in 2010 is moving closer to reality, with construction crews kicking off work on the system that is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 25,000 tons per year.

The Rolla, Mo., school was founded in 1870 as one of the first technological schools west of the Mississippi. Its aging coal-fired plant, built in 1945, was due for $26 million in upgrades and repairs. An assessment by the university and a group of engineering consultants revealed that if the steam infrastructure was replaced with a geothermal energy system, the school could save significantly on energy costs and damage to the environment.

Missouri S&T coal

image via Missouri University of Science and Technology

Digging begins this month and 600 energy storage wells along with piping for closed geothermal loops are slated for completion by the end of the year. Three plants will be built that contain heat pump chillers, supplemental cooling towers, and gas-fired boilers. The geothermal plants will supply energy to 15 surrounding campus buildings. Energy consumption is expected to be reduced by half, and the new system will save the college up to $2.8 million annually.

Each of the three plants contains screw type heat recovery chillers and supplemental boilers. Regional plants offer several benefits including less equipment maintenance, longer equipment life, and more efficient water routing. The water distribution system gets an upgrade too—a new two-pipe system that reuses existing electric chillers and cooling towers on campus. Once the overhaul is complete in 2014, the school projects it will use 8 million fewer gallons of water per year.

Based in New York City, Leah Jones is a freelance writer with undergraduate degrees in criminal justice and forensic science. She has worked on research in the toxicology field for several years, and she brings her passion for science into the realm of green technology with EarthTechling. Leah has studied English at the graduate level and has authored or co-authored over 30 publications in scientific journals. When she's not writing, Leah enjoys playing music with her husband and teaching music to New York City kids.

1 Comment

  • Reply May 9, 2012


    The article mentions that the coal plant required 26million in unnamed repairs yet this geothermal project is costing 32million. Granted they estimate to save 2million a year annual it just seems silly to neglect using a source (coal) that is more abundant in Missouri than oil is in Saudi Arabia. Never mind that coal is much cleaner now than we are led to believe. 

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