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University to construct geothermal field

| Monday, September 26, 2016

As part of the recently announced Ricci Family Fields on the north side of campus, the University will be constructing a geothermal well field. Paul Kempf, senior director of utilities and maintenance at Notre Dame, said the geothermal field will be located underneath the three athletic fields, which are intended for use by the Notre Dame Marching Band and RecSports.

The geothermal field will be the third on campus, Kempf said. Currently, a small geothermal field is located on East Quad and a larger one was completed over the summer just south of the football stadium, according to Kempf.

“We started with the smaller East Quad field, but the next two have been a little larger,” Kempf said. “There are a couple of other projects that are potentially feasible in other areas, but for now we’re trying to get those three up and running to prove the concept. It has been proven elsewhere, but we’ll want to see how it integrates with our system.”

Kempf said a geothermal well field works by transporting water through pipes to approximately 300 feet underground, where the water is brought to the earth’s temperature and then brought back up to the surface to use for heating or cooling.

“In the summer when you’re bringing warm water and the earth is colder, the earth cools the water back down,” Kempf said. “Vice versa, if you’re bringing 40 degree water in winter, and it’s 55 degrees in the earth, you’re gonna heat it back up.”

Eventually, this geothermal field will be used to heat McCourtney Hall, Flaherty Hall and Dunne Hall, among other buildings, which Kempf said were all built with the capability to run a hot water heating system.

“Essentially what we’re doing is using the earth as a radiator,” Kempf said.

Kempf said he expects the implementation of geothermal well fields to significantly reduce Notre Dame’s carbon footprint.

“We’ve already reduced our carbon footprint from where we were in 2005 by more than 30 percent,” Kempf said. “I think this could maybe match that.”

Economically, Kempf said the field will pay for itself over the course of about 15 years.

“The university is looking at it more long term and is committed to the sustainability strategy,” Kempf said.

In the future, Kempf said the University will continue to explore various renewable energy sources, such as solar power and hydropower.

“We would rather have some diversity, a variety of different energy sources, like a stock portfolio,” Kempf said. “You wouldn’t just put all your money in one stock; it could be a big win or a big loss. So right now we’re investigating a variety of renewable and recoverable sources of energy.”

Kempf said one energy process of particular interest for the future will be regeneration.

“Regeneration takes some of the waste heat that either comes off the processes of the plant or energy that comes back from campus as low grade heat,” Kempf said. “Maybe we can add a little energy and boost it back up to use it a second time, sort of like energy recycling.”

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