Geothermal energy; an integral component on the pathway to carbon neutrality at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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In 2008, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) signed the American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment to become carbon neutral by the year 2050. Since the declaration was signed, the University has embarked on an ambitious program to reduce its carbon footprint and construct and retrofit buildings to be more energy efficient. Illinois' Climate Action Plans (iCAP) have been ongoing since 2000. As one of the many options to expand the renewable energy portfolio for campus sustainability, UIUC is now exploring using geothermal energy to heat and cool buildings and research facilities. To determine their feasibility, multiple research projects have begun to evaluate different geothermal energy technologies, including ground source heat pumps, energy piles and shafts, shallow horizontal loops, and deep direct-use systems. Unlike solar and wind installations, geothermal energy systems in the Midwestern United States do not generate electricity. Instead, these systems were developed to offset the energy supplied by other sources for the heating and cooling of water and air, therefore reducing overall energy consumption and burning of fossil fuels. At UIUC, the expansion of geothermal energy is bolstered by the fact there is: 1) wide temperature range in the regional climate (cold winters and hot summers), 2) favorable local geology and drilling conditions, and 3) existing research capabilities to support advanced system designs and effective operation. Geoscientists and engineers at UIUC are leading the effort to help implement geothermal exchange systems and educate the campus community about underground thermal energy storage. Research boreholes and underground building support structures have been installed to help characterize the thermogeology and hydrogeology and monitor ground temperatures to various depths. This work has received financial support from a UIUC campus student fee for sustainability and the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment using a Carbon Credit Sales Fund. These projects were developed as a living laboratory for faculty and students to use in their work. The results are being shared with the geothermal industry and deep foundation engineers to assist them in constructing more affordable and efficient green energy systems.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAbstracts with Programs - Geological Society of America
Place of PublicationPhoenix, Arizona
PublisherGeological Society of America (GSA), Boulder, CO, United States
StatePublished - 2019


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