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Projects Updates for Geothermal on Campus

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  1. Considerations for clean thermal energy

    There are a few examples of clean thermal energy in use on campus at this time. These include:

    • the solar thermal panels on the Activities Rec Center, heating the three swimming pools
    • the biomass boiler at the Energy Farm, heating the two story greenhouse on south Race Street
    • geothermal installations providing heating and cooling at the Fruit Farm Admin Building, the RIPE greenhouse, the Campus Instructional Facility, a few buildings at Allerton Park, the solar decathlon Gable Home at the Energy Farm, and a few rooms in the Hydrosystems Building
    • a wood-fired stove heating some maintenance buildings at Allerton Park

    We could expand these types of energy systems...

    • Additional geothermal installations are being planned for various places around campus, including a geothermal battery system at the Energy Farm.  The other geothermal locations in planning discussions now include the South Campus Center for Interdisciplinary Learning, a future greenhouse for CABBI, and the Doris Christopher Kelley Illinois Extension Building in the Arboretum.
    • The biomass boiler at the Energy Farm was designed with the anticipation of future expansion.
    • Solar thermal is a great option for our area of the planet, but it is not easy to integrate it in our existing energy enterprise.

    Another option for clean thermal energy is biogas, which UIUC contributes to locally through the Grind2Energy system, which takes food waste from the dining halls to the Urbana-Champaign Sanitary District (UCSD).  UCSD puts it through their anaerobic digester which captures the methane (a very strong greenhouse gas).  Currently, that captured methane is used to run an electrical generator, which provides power to the UCSD facility.  An alternative would be to upgrade the methane to pipeline quality and use the biogas a Abbott Power Plant on campus.  This is an expensive option that would require a lot of coordination and funding.

    Another strong option is a micronuclear reactor, which is being studies by the Grainger College of Engineering faculty and researchers.  This system could be integrated with the existing steam distribution system and provide ghg-free energy to campus.


  2. Geothermal Urbana-Champaign 2.0 Spring Zoom Sessions

    The following text is from the February iSEE Newsletter, which is attached below.


    Geothermal Urbana-Champaign 2.0 Starts Feb. 23. Geothermal Urbana-Champaign is a public education and group buy program that makes getting geothermal heating and cooling easier and more affordable for Champaign, Piatt, and Vermilion County home and business owners. Register for a spring Zoom session to learn more! Spring dates include Feb. 23, March 29, April 12 (co-hosted by iSEE and F&S), May 2, and May 23 (times vary). Details>>>

    Attached Files: 
  3. This Week in Research

    What do giant grasses, micro grids, deep wells, and hydrogen-powered buses all have in common? They are all part of a clean energy future that is being imagined, created, and tested here at UIUC. The breadth of our energy research portfolio, across all of the campus and the broader C-U community, is truly impressive. Here are just a few examples:

    Solar Farm 2.0 will soon be home to a newly awarded, $10M project led by Madhu Khanna to optimize the design of "Agrivoltaics," or fields with both crops and solar panels to maintain crop production, produce renewable energy, and increase farm profitability. A few miles to the east, the Energy Farm boasts extensive test plots to study how to grow and use plants as biofuel. The farm is using a biomass boiler to replace propane as the fuel source for its main research greenhouse. The Energy Farm is also home to one of dozens of geothermal wells on campus that are helping scientists like Yu-Feng Lin develop better geothermal systems, while on the north side of campus, the new Campus Instructional Facility is heated and cooled with a state-of-the art geothermal system. Nuclear power is expected to play an important role in meeting our campus ICAP goals, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission hosted a hearing last week to seek input on our plans to site a next-generation, micronuclear reactor near the Abbott Power Plant. Integrating renewable energy sources into the power grid presents unique challenges, and Illinois power system researchers, including Alejandro Domínguez-García, are working to develop microgrid technology to address issues of reliability and resilience. Meanwhile, researchers such as Petros Sofronis are working on a bold new vision for national leadership in the emerging hydrogen economy. (It might sound like the stuff of science fiction, but the CUMTD just launched two hydrogen-powered, zero-emission buses—the first in the state!) 

    There is only one way I can wrap up a message about our campus energy research: The future looks bright, indeed!



  4. Geothermal Illinois - 7/29 Webinar

    Thank you to those who participated in the Geothermal Illinois webinar on 7/29! Many thanks to our presenters, Dr. Tugce Baser, Assistant Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; John Freitag, Executive Director, Geothermal Alliance of Illinois; and Dr. Yu-Feng Forrest Lin, Director of Illinois Water Resources Center; Principal Research Hydrogeologist, Prairie Research Institute.

    As promised, slides are available for download here, and a recording can be found here.

    Other helpful links shared during the program:

    Please join us on August 10 and August 12 for geothermal webinars that will give us a closer look at campus projects and community models.

    For more information, please contact: 

    Nancy Esarey Ouedraogo
    Extension State Specialist, Community and Economic Development
    905 S Goodwin Ave
    557 Bevier Hall MC 184
    Urbana, IL 61801

  5. Upcoming energy-themed events

    YOU are invited to iSEE's monthly TED Talk: Eco-Edition series discussion. Tomorrow (Tuesday), July 27 at 5:30 PM, Paul Foote, F&S Energy Efficiency and Conservation Specialist, will host the event and lead the July discussion on energy conservation. We will view a pre-recorded TED Talk , "The four things you need to know about the energy you use", followed by a guided discussion and roundtable. All are welcome to this (fun!) Zoom event, and I hope to see you there! Register here.

    Additionally on the topic of sustainable energy, this summer the University of Illinois Extension is hosting a series of free and online webinars on the topic of geothermal energy. There are three upcoming sessions at noon on the following dates (click the links to learn more and register): July 29 (Geothermal Energy in Illinois), on August 10 (Campus Case Study, highlighting ten existing campus geothermal projects), and August 12 (Community Case Study).

    There are many events in the coming weeks to keep you energized and engaged!


  6. Daily Illini article about impacts of covid-19 on iCAP

    The Daily Illini published an article about the impacts of covid-19 on the campus sustainability efforts. One key message is that, even with some delays associated with the pandemic, we are still determined to move forward.  The conclusion of the article says: 

    Mohamed Attalla, executive director of Facilities and Services, said there are lots of initiatives to reach carbon neutrality in terms of energy and hopes to reach 400,000 metric tons of CO2 this year.

    Attalla said the addition of a third solar farm, advances in geothermal energy and research in carbon capture contribute to achieving carbon neutrality and that long-term, COVID-19 should not be a problem.

    “Maybe we’re behind a little in implementing some projects, but we’ll be able to catch up,” he said. “I don’t think there will be a long-term impact on the iCAP implementation.”

    White also said she doesn’t anticipate any long-term problems with achieving the iCAP goals and believes it’s important for the University to lead by example when it comes to sustainability.

    “I really believe that accomplishing the iCAP goals is something we can do, we need to do and we will do,” she said. 

    “Climate change isn’t waiting for us,” Edwards said. “(The University is) the laboratory for science, for humanities, for arts …  all those kinds of things show what is possible of humanity.”

    “If we’re going to call ourselves leaders, then we need to lead,” he said.


  7. Measuring geothermal energy

    Associated Project(s): 

             Geothermal heat exchanger systems consist of two main components: (1) heat pumps, and (2) ground loop. The heat pump capacity is associated with the capability of a GHP system to extract heat from the ground. The size of geothermal heat pumps is measured in tons where 1 ton = 12,000 btu/h, and determined according to the profile of the heating and/or cooling demand of the facility. Meanwhile, the loop field and its size in terms of length and depth are based on the size of equipment, soil type, and average temperature, and climate conditions.  

    Furthermore, other metrics measure the system performance and its efficiency. Coefficient of Performance (COP) is the ratio of useable thermal energy to the thermal equivalent of the electricity used to operate the system. Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) represents the ratio between the cooling output (in Btu/h) and the energy (electricity) input (in Watt). Also, The SEER is a measure of central air conditioning efficiency over an entire season. Higher COP, EER, or SEER means higher heat pump efficiency.

             The ground source heat exchanger system can be implemented in conjunction with an existing heating system that depends on another type of energy such as liquid propane. To accurately calculate the reduction in energy usage after the installation of a ground source heat exchanger, the system has to be modeled as a hybrid system. Detailed information (system type, fuel, capacity, power consumption, time of usage) of this hybrid system is needed to assess the adequacy of a GHP system's performance in addressing the building’s heating and cooling needs. Assuming that the ground heat exchanger design data and the existing system are known, then the actual performance metrics of the system may be simulated using commercially available software such as eQuest or GLHEPro.

              Once the system is installed, a data collection system can measure, track, and report the actual performance of the ground heat exchanger system. First, determining the electricity consumption of a GHP system requires sub-metering of the GHP system. Second, is heat exchange performance data. This includes the measured entering/exiting water temperatures and circulation rates for the heat pump over time.  Modern GSHP units already incorporate sensors to monitor energy usage and the entering and exiting fluid temperatures.

  8. Senior project about Deep Direct Use (DDU) geothermal

    Lauren Kumle, Tess Sobol, Jaboc Heglund, and Tommy Robey in CEE 493 - Sustainable Design Engineering Technology worked with Dr. Andy Stumpf in Fall 2020 on a Deep Direct Use (DDU) geothermal proposal for north campus.

    Dr. Stumpf provided this information to the team in September:

    If your team is interested, you might consider a different technology for geothermal energy at Newmark Civil Engineering Laboratory. Specifically a deep direct-use (DDU) geothermal energy system (GES). I suggest this because I am not certain there is enough ground space at Newmark for a geothermal borefield like at CIF. The advantages of DDU GES is it requires fewer wells, and there would be enough thermal energy extracted to condition space in multiple buildings. Essentially, the DDU GES comprises extraction and injection wells (likely 2 of each needed) to access geothermal fluids (brine) from deeper bedrock formations. Under campus, one of the potential bedrock formations, the St. Peter Sandstone, lies at ~2,000 feet depth and contains an abundant amount of fluid at 78-82°F. When I last talked to Professor Liang Liu (who recently retired from College of Engineering), he was very interested in a study for DDU GES for the Engineering quad (south of Grainger library). So I think your findings from this type of system would be timely and more likely to be implemented.


    My colleagues and I just completed a feasibility study of DDU GES for six agricultural research facilities on the South Farms (see summary paper attached).

    The focus was on the deeper Mt. Simon Sandstone (lying at >6000 feet depth) because we were interested in extracting the hottest brine (110-130°F) since some of the farms needed to make hot water. They are not connected to the steam and hot/cold water energy system servicing the main part of campus, so propane and natural gas are the primary fuels. However, the St. Peter Sandstone would be an alternative… and this formation is also being considered for cooling buildings.


    If you are interested in looking at DDU for the Newmark site, I can share the report with you. It should contain much of the information you need. Some of colleagues can help you with the life cycle costs and mechanical energy system analyses. Completing this project would also help researchers on campus compete for funding from DOE to complete tests wells which will be needed to validate your findings. DOE is very interested in developing DDU GES in non-volcanic areas of the US, especially for district-energy systems. Cornell University just received funding from DOE for a test well to develop a DDU GES on their campus, but they will most likely have to drill >15,000 feet into the Precambrian granite develop the system. They are looking to generate electricity with very hot water.


    Doing a rough calculation, I think constructing a DDU GES would be of similar cost to a shallow borefield with 50-100 wells. The DDU GES would be much more efficient since you are directly using the heated brine and not trying to conduct heat in the ground. The payback period would be much quicker since it will be servicing more than one building.

     On 9/25/2020, Lauren, Tommy, and Jacob met with Dr. Stumpf.  He provided the following update:

    I had a meeting with Lauren Jacob and Tommy today about their design project. I suggested they look at a DDU system that would heat/cool 4 buildings (Newmark, DCL, Uni High, and Siebel Center). I guess the number of buildings will depend on the amount of energy that can be extracted from the geothermal reservoir. I also suggested they look at the shallowest reservoir, the St. Peter Sandstone. As part of their analysis, they indicated there is a need for building level energy use data.

  9. Discussion on geothermal policy options

    Associated Project(s): 

    Morgan White, John Summers, Jim Sims, Matthew Tomaszewski, and Kent Reifsteck met today to discuss options for incorporating geothermal information into campus policies.  The best options are to include geothermal in the Energy Use Policy, update the Campus Administrative Manual to support the updated Energy Use Policy, and include geothermal information in the Facilities Standards. A summary of existing policies and the draft iCAP 2020 objectives linked to geothermal are shown in the attached file.

    Attached Files: 
  10. eGen010 Geothermal Feasibility Study - Returned

    Andy Stumpf provided the following response for eGEN010, "Yes. The summary will be compiled as part of a 'Living Labs' project proposed by the Illinois Water Resources Center."


    See the iWG Assessment of eGen010 Geothermal Feasibility Study here.

    See the SWATeam recommendation eGen010 Geothermal Feasibility Study here

  11. eGen009 Campus Geothermal Policy - Successful

    Dr. Mohamed Attalla, Executive Director at F&S, responded to Dr. Ximing Cai, iWG Chair, on August 27, 2019 stating, "We will review options for incorporating geothermal into existing campus documents, and share our thoughts with the iWG before proceeding."

    For further information about this project, please see Geothermal on Campus

    See the transmittal of eGen009 Campus Geothermal Policy Recommendation. 

    See the SWATeam Recommendation eGen009 Campus Geothermal Policy

  12. SSC funds Energy Shaft at the Energy Farm

    This student-led project will involve the design, construction, and installation of an energy geo-structure for heating the UIUC Energy Farm, located near the southeast corner of Race Street and Curtis Road on the South Farms. This project has great potential in exploring and utilizing geothermal energy, a renewable energy alternative to fossil fuels. An energy shaft is a new technology designed to access the shallow geothermal energy (relatively constant ground temperature in the upper 30 m of the subsurface). The objective of the project is to determine the feasibility of using drilled shafts that are already being used to support structures on campus also as a geothermal heat-exchange element. Geothermal heat exchangers (closed absorber pipes) can be incorporated into underground infrastructure, e.g., drilled shafts, through which water is circulated to withdraw shallow geothermal heat (~55 °F) and transport it to the surface for structure heating or cooling.

  13. iWG meeting minutes April 9th, 2018

  14. EGEN SWATeam Meeting (4.13.17)

    The EGEN SWATeam held another bi-weekly meeting. Topics covered include:

    • Ximing Cai's [in attendance] vision for iSEE and SWATeams
    • Developing a recommendation to expand UIUC solar farm.
    • Developing a recommendation for another clean energy PPA
    • Cost savings for geothermal systems and opportunities for implementation at solar farm and new building sites
  15. EGEN SWATeam Meeting (3.30.17)

    The EGEN SWATeam held another bi-weekly meeting. Topics covered include:

    • Performing preliminary assessment for clean energy PPA
    • Fact sheet using solar farm as basis to estimate land needs and costs of additional solar farm to meet iCAP goal
    • Update on biomass boiler at energy farm
    • Identifying opportunities to purseu implementation of ground source heat pump (GSHP) technology on campus.