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Geothermal project to reduce energy costs, serve as teaching tool

by Public Relations and Marketing | Published May 08, 2015

 

The College of Lake County’s Grayslake Campus was turned into a living laboratory on April 21, as 20 students and two instructors had the chance to observe contractors drilling wells for a new geothermal heating and cooling system being built on the Grayslake campus.

The students are enrolled in CLC’s heating and air conditioning engineering technology program. Sustainability practices and technology are taught in the program.

The well-drilling is being done as part of the college’s $ 163 million Sustainable Campus Master Plan, which includes improvements on all three of CLC’s campuses.

Eighty 500-foot geothermal wells are being drilled on the north end of the Grayslake Campus soccer field to create a geothermal system that will provide heating and cooling to the campus’s A and B wings and a café addition that will go to construction in mid-May. The field will be designed to allow expansion in the future to serve more buildings, according to Dorothy McCarty, program manager for Cotter Consulting, a firm working with the college on master plan projects.

HVAC class visits geothermal field sitePolyethylene piping will be buried below the frost line, where the ambient temperature is about 55 degrees Fahrenheit. The piping will circulate water from the wells through a sealed underground loop that will connect to heat pumps in the basement of the new café, McCarty said.

CLC heating and air conditioning instructors are eager for completion of the geothermal system so they can use it as a teaching tool.

“We’ve had a much smaller geothermal loop on the north side of the Technology Building that we’ve used to demonstrate a residential application,” said Allen Smith Jr., an instructor in the program and department chair. “This larger loop for the entire campus will let us show students an example of a larger commercial system that will serve multiple zones and multiple buildings. Geothermal technology is the wave of the future, and knowing this technology will give our graduates an edge in the job market.”

Students were intrigued by the new technology. “Geothermal is now required if you want your building rated LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) platinum,” said student Matt Ivantic. “To see a geothermal system being installed and to study it is pretty interesting.”

Well-drilling began April 8, and 10 wells have been drilled so far. With local soil high in rock and clay content, it will take until August to finish the 80 wells north of the soccer field, said Jay Trout, project manager for the well-drilling contractor, Efflandt Geothermal Drilling working as a subcontractor to DeKalb Mechanical.

An additional 47 wells will be drilled on the Grayslake Campus in the area south of the new Science and Engineering Building to serve that building, currently under construction.

When completed, the geothermal system will provide heating during the winter and cooling during the summer for four buildings, resulting in a projected savings on energy costs of over 50 percent, according to David Agazzi, vice president for administrative affairs.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the new café addition and renovation of the A and B wings will take place on Saturday, May 16 at noon in the Main Lobby between the A and B wings.