Geothermal now heating up campus

After nearly 30 years of planning, environmentally-friendly geothermal heat is now flowing on the Boise State campus. Extending geothermal service across the river to Boise State has been a primary goal since the city’s system began operating in 1983.

Boise Mayor David Bieter, along with Boise State President Bob Kustra and officials from Congressman Mike Simpson’s and Senator Mike Crapo’s offices, took part in a ceremony to “turn on” the system Friday, Nov. 16, in front of the Micron Business and Economics Building. For the ceremony, heated water, turned down to about 110 degrees from a natural 170 degrees, was piped through the fountain in front of the building.

The geothermal water is piped across the river underneath the Capitol Street Bridge and is used in several buildings on campus.

“Powering our campus with geothermal energy reflects the university’s commitment to innovative solutions, environmental stewardship and economic judiciousness,” Kustra said. “We are excited to be part of the expanded service network across the Boise River. The presence of geothermal will reduce our energy costs as well as provide hands-on research opportunities for our students and faculty in clean-energy development.”

Approximately 600,000 square feet of building space on campus are now heated by geothermal energy. The Administration Building, the Student Union Building, the Environmental Research Building, the Morrison Center, the Multipurpose Classroom Building, the Interactive Learning Center, the Math and Geosciences Building and the Micron Business and Economics Building are all connected to the system.

“It’s wonderful to see the expansion of Boise’s geothermal system, one of our city’s greatest natural assets,” Bieter said. “By extending this clean and efficient form of energy across the river, we are helping Boise State become more sustainable, lowering its energy costs and making this rare amenity available to more private businesses. This project could not have been done without the partnership between the city, Boise State and our congressional delegation, and it demonstrates the kind of success that can be achieved by working together toward a common goal.”

A majority of the funding for the project came from federal appropriations won through the efforts of Crapo and Simpson. Funds from both the Department of Energy and the Department of Housing and Urban Development were used in the project.

Thursday’s ceremony concludes the first phase of the Boise State geothermal extension project. Next summer crews will extend the pipeline further down University Drive. The final phase of the project will be completed in 2015 when the geothermal pipeline is brought over the Broadway Bridge and connected to the existing pipeline on University. The connection will close the loop on the Boise State system.

GRAPHIC SIDEBAR

The City of Boise has operated a geothermal district heating system since 1983. Natural geothermal water around 170 degrees is pumped from the ground near St. Luke’s Regional Medical Center, distributed through the downtown area and re-injected into the geothermal aquifer near Julia Davis Park. The system now serves 81 buildings, heating approximately 3.8 million square feet of building space. Several buildings benefiting from this low-cost, environmentally friendly heating source are publicly owned, including the Federal Courthouse, City Hall, Boise High School and the Ada County Courthouse. In the course of a year, the system circulates more than 190 million gallons of water through approximately 13 miles of pipeline.

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