Oberlin College Converting to Geothermal Exchange System - Smart Energy Decisions

Commercial, Sourcing Renewables  -  October 19, 2023

Oberlin College Converting to Geothermal Exchange System

Drilling for a large geothermal systems installation is underway at Oberlin College & Conservatory in Ohio. 

When it is completed in 2027, the university's 55-plus buildings in the district will be converted from a century-old heating system to a proven geothermal energy exchange system (geo-exchange) to heat and cool the campus by Subterra Renewables, a geothermal exchange systems utility provider.

According to the university, this project will significantly reduce overall energy costs and lower campus energy consumption by over 30% as Oberlin pledges to reach carbon neutrality by 2025.

Over the past few months, Subterra began drilling over 850 borehole wells that run 600 feet deep that will lay the groundwork for the geo-exchange loop system to be installed under Oberlin's outdoor practice fields located north of the campus buildings.

"This work integrates the earth as an energy-storage device," said Joel Baetens, Campus Energy and Resource Manager, Oberlin College, in a statement. "When completed, the system will enable us to lean on clean energy for our heating needs — a pivotal step in our commitment to carbon neutrality."

Using a closed-loop network of underground fluid-filled, temperature-controlled thermal pipes, the geo-exchange system uses the earth's constant-average, year-round temperature as a heat source and heat sink  to supply buildings with thermal energy for heating and cooling spaces. The underground piping system is circulated to a series of heat exchangers and heat pumps. In the winter, the energy station pumps hot water through pipes to heat buildings on the district system, and the cooled water returns to the energy station for reheating. In the summer, cold water pumps through pipes to cool the buildings.

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