Mich. college cuts ribbon on geothermal system

Mich. college cuts ribbon on geothermal system

Monroe County Community College officials have formally recognized the college’s switch from an outdated and conventional heating, ventilation and air conditioning system to a more energy-efficient and earth-friendly geothermal-based system during a ribbon cutting ceremony.

The event was the culmination of a two-year, $16.1 million project financed by the college in Monroe, Mich., over 20 years that has transformed the way it heats and cools most of its buildings on its main campus, while providing major cost and environmental benefits, according to a press release.

The geothermal-based system will result in significant energy cost savings for MCCC, has a 50-year lifespan on its well field that is double that of a conventional system and will greatly reduce the college’s carbon footprint, officials said. Ameresco Inc., a leading energy efficiency and renewable energy services provider, was the engineer and general contractor for the project.

Five main campus buildings – the Warrick Student Services/Administration Building, Life Sciences Building, Campbell Learning Resources Center, and East and West Technology Buildings, which were all built in the late 1960s or early 1970s – are now being served by the new geothermal-based system.

The La-Z-Boy Center and Gerald Welch Health Education Building, which were built more recently – in 2004 and 1996, respectively – have conventional HVAC systems with time left on their lifespans; they will be added to the geothermal-based system once their current systems are in need of replacement. The Career Technology Center, built in 2013, already has its own geothermal-based HVAC system.

Geothermal-based HVAC brings the buildings into harmony with the earth beneath by taking advantage of subterranean temperatures to provide heating in colder-weather months and cooling in warmer-weather months, said Jack Burns, director of campus planning and facilities at MCCC, who oversaw the project. Outdoor temperatures fluctuate with the changing seasons; however, underground temperatures do not change as dramatically because of the insulating properties of the earth, he said. 

MCCC’s new system uses a buried system of pipes, also known as an earth or distribution loop, to capitalize on these constant temperatures to provide “free” energy to the buildings.

“Essentially, we are using water that has been heated or cooled by the earth’s energy to a temperature that requires less additional energy to heat or cool it to acquire specific comfort levels, depending on the season,” Burns said. 

Through its contract with Ameresco, the college is guaranteed to reduce its previous yearly energy consumption by about 160,000 kilowatt hours annually. It is also guaranteed to save about $5.55 million in electricity, gas and water costs over the next 20 years or an average of $275,000 per year.

Topics: Architectural Firms, Automation and Controls, Building Owners and Managers, Construction Firms, Educational Buildings - Colleges and Universities, Energy Saving Products, Engineering Firms, Geothermal Heating and Cooling, Healthy & Comfortable Buildings, HVAC - Heating, Cooling, and Ventilation, Technology, Ventilation

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