When administrators at fast-growing Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction first looked into using geothermal energy to heat and cool a new campus building in 2008, they weren’t sure if the projected cost savings would be realized fast enough to make the system feasible.
“We then asked the question — what if?” said Kent Marsh, CMU’s vice president of capital planning, sustainability and campus operations. “What if we connect the drill field that we’ve spent a million-and-a-half dollars on to another building? If we connected a classroom building to a residence hall, those two need heat at different times of the day.”
Today, CMU’s “geo-exchange” system heats and cools 70% of the 10,000-student campus, transferring heat between buildings and to and from the ground as necessary through a system of heat pumps, cooling towers and underground pipes.
“It’s really a tremendous system,” said Will Toor, executive director of the Colorado Energy Office. “For similar structures, like university campuses or large corporate campuses, where you have substantial land available where you can place those geo-exchange systems — these district heating and cooling systems really make a lot of sense.”