Geothermal and Solar through Academic, Federal, and Private Partnership

08/01/2014 |

The Oregon Institute of Technology is working toward carbon neutrality

Solar Cell Array

This solar array is helping the Oregon Institute of Technology reach its goal of carbon neutrality by 2020.

The Oregon Institute of Technology (OIT) recently became the first campus in the U.S. to be entirely heated by on-site renewable energy, achieving a major milestone toward its goal of making all seven schools in the Oregon University System carbon-neutral by 2020.

Partially supported by Energy Department funds, the Klamath Falls campus utilizes 1.5 MW of geothermal capacity combined with a 2 MW solar array, making OIT the first university in North America to generate most of its electrical power from renewable sources.

“The DOE’s investments at OIT are another example of how partnerships with academia, industry, and the private sector can help cut energy waste and pollution while reducing energy bills,” says Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

The school’s Geo-Heat Center has been tapping its geothermal resources to heat campus buildings for nearly 50 years. In 2008, OIT began further developing geothermal resources beneath the campus by purchasing an initial 280 kW system through DOE funding. By 2010, the small binary unit was producing power for the school’s facilities, and the groundwork was laid to utilize additional geothermal energy through a DOE investment of $3.5 million, with a matching cost-share by the university.

An additional $1 million investment through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act developed technology to generate electricity from low-temperature geothermal resources at an estimated 20% cost savings over conventional binary systems. Johnson Controls provided $4 million in cost-share to demonstrate the nearly emission-free technology at the campus.

“OIT’s use of cutting-edge technology and its commitment to a clean energy future help diversify our energy supply,” Moniz says.

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