Volume 80, Issue 6
October 10, 2008

Geothermal Fields: An Eye for the Future

By Dorothy Johnson

Elm Staff Writer

Geothermal Fields will fuel new buildings on campus. This idea “grew out of President Tipson’s climate commitment,” said Director of Physical Plant Reid Raudenbush.

“A geothermal field is a series of wells that is drilled to a depth of 250-600 feet. They are spaced at least 15-20 feet apart from each other,” according to Raudenbush.

Coeds are warming up to the new system already: “Chester and Sassafras are the first two buildings to have geothermal heating and cooling. Each building has 70 wells each underneath the baseball field,” said Raudenbush.

“We scraped the baseball field 3-4 feet and then drilled the wells,” said Raudenbush. Originally, there were going to be three residence halls in the Chester/ Sassafras area, not two. Buildings and Grounds has the geothermal field built for the third hall “and as soon as the building is complete, we will hook the field up,” said Raudenbush.

Free air conditioning? According to Raudenbush, “the energy that’s expended is only as much energy as it takes to reduce that water temperature. So that’s the beauty of the geothermal—it’s almost free air conditioning. Two thirds of the cost of energy used for the conventional system will be saved.

The cost of a geothermal field is compared to a conventional HVAC system that operates with refrigeration compressors. The savings of operating the building is where all the money is. It is much cheaper this way,” said Raudenbush.

“Hodson Hall is going to have a geothermal system and those wells will be drilled in the Kent Loop, which should be completed by August,” said Raudenbush.

A Geothermal Field is not in the future for the new theater. Raudenbush stated, “it could have been done, but it wasn’t planned. There are other things underneath the parking lot: storm water controls, basins and things, so the decision was no.”

The library will be fueled by a Geothermal Field in “several years. There is talk about putting this under a section of the lawn, but that would take research. Although the lawn looks like a grassy area, there are all sorts of things underneath there: utilities, data lines, telephones, high- voltage electric. You have to take that into consideration when you consider wells,” said Raudenbush.

Raudenbush says that it is the Washington College “goal to take the Green Initiative, to look at Geothermal Fields as a realistic option. Engineers see it as the way to go.”