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.
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.