Geothermal Projects on Campus

The University of Illinois has implemented several geothermal projects on U of I campus for either educational purposes and/or improving the sustainability of existing and new buildings and providing an overall energy resilience. For example: 

  • The University of Illinois has replaced the fuel based heating and cooling system in two of the four buildings in Allerton Park & Retreat Center with geothermal heat exchange systems that are based on vertical heat exchanger loops. The project was funded from the Student Sustainability Committee (SSC) and was completed at by the end of 2013 with a future plan of converting the four building system to be fully dependent on geothermal energy. The project is a part of the Allerton Park long term plan to be carbon neutral by 2030. 

  • The Campus Instructional Facility building has integrated a geothermal heat exchange system with the building heating and cooling that is expected to reduce the building energy consumption by 65%. The system consists of 40 boreholes with a 300 ft. deep vertical heat exchanger loop. This system was designed based on the data acquired and analyzed from a monitoring well. This monitoring well provided the required data to conduct several studies on (1) subsurface geology; (2) thermos-physical properties of core samples; (3) ground temperature along the borehole; (4) thermo-hydraulic properties of the geo-material; and (5) modeling a whole year analysis for the outflow temperature from geothermal borefield. 

  • The university is integrating an innovative geothermal system with the foundation of a new extension of the hydro system lab. F&S is collaborating with Illinois Civil and Electrical Engineering assistant professor Dr. Tugce Baser, on using the 50-foot-deep shafts already being drilled for the foundation of a new "smart" bridge that connects the Newmark Civil Engineering Lab with the Hydrosystems Lab to integrate geothermal system pipes that circulate water heated or cooled under the earth. This innovative approach is 30-40% cheaper than the conventional methods of geothermal systems by drilling separate boreholes for the exchanger loops. The project will provide an invaluable opportunity for the university to conduct a scalability study from the lesson learned during the installation and an excellent basis for a fundamental understanding of energy foundations' operational response. Furthermore, F&S is planning to utilize the outcome of this project to study the impact of the expansion on geothermal energy generation and storage on campus energy management.   

  • state-of-the-art greenhouse located in the Research Park supports the ongoing project led by Illinois researchers Steve Long and Don Ort. The heating system in the greenhouse integrates a geothermal exchanger with the heating system. The geothermal wellfield includes 32 vertical heat exchangers (VHE) in 300’ deep boreholes filled. The boreholes are 25 feet apart from both directions, and VHEs are distributed on eight circuits.

  • The Geothermal Test Well project at Energy Farm was funded by SSC. The main objective of is to provide comprehensive scientific data and analysis to help our community on evaluating the potential of using ground source heat pump system in a large scale as part of campus green energy policy. the project outcomes include (1) the comprehensive thermal property measurements, (2) subsurface temperature profile in high spatiotemporal resolutions, and (3) optimal cost analysis of vertical closed loop installation for ground source heat pumps, which can be used to evaluate geothermal energy contribution for future energy planning on campus. 

  • The university also conducted a feasibility study to convert the President's house HVAC to geothermal heating and cooling system. The president house is located on Florida Avenue in Urbana, Illinois and was originally built in 1931. This project employed a retainer mechanical engineer firm to prepare a 25 year LCCA of the geothermal option with a baseline standard HVAC system with respect to performance and operating costs. 

  • In 2011, the University of Illinois activated a geothermal system in the Fruit Farm Admin Building. The performance tracking for the system demonstrated that the energy consumption significantly decreased over the past decade due to the geothermal energy.