By Abigail Kelly, For The Miami Student

The Board of Trustees approved the second phase of the Western Campus Geothermal Infrastructure project on Feb. 19. The project, part of Miami’s Utility Master Plan, will keep the university on top of its overall energy usage goals and infrastructure plans until 2040.

“I believe we are smart in our approach,” said Cody Powell, associate vice president of facilities planning and operations, about the continuation of the project.

Miami completed the first phase of its geothermal project in 2014. The original system was built for Western Dining Hall and Beechwoods, Stonebridge and Hillcrest Halls.

Now, the project has been granted $16.6 million to take another step toward reaching Miami’s sustainability goals.

Doug Hammerle, Director of Energy Systems, explained the importance of the infrastructure project which was envisioned in 2013.

“Part of the sustainability plan is to get off of coal by 2025,” Hammerle said. “So one of the ways is for these buildings to be heated by geothermal [energy].”

According to Hammerle, there are three major elements to this project.

In addition to the 315 wells behind Hillcrest Hall, 390 additional wells will be drilled. More equipment will also be added to the geothermal plant, and a mixture of tunnel and underground piping for cooling and heating will be extended to the Child Development Center and Clawson, Havighurst, Presser and Hoyt Halls. 

Hammerle and Powell said the installation of this technology would be intrusive to campus because of the heavy equipment needed for construction, so they hope to complete a majority of the disruptive work during the summer.

However, according to Powell, the current system in place from the first phase of the project is operating better than they originally estimated, meaning the upcoming additions will help Miami save more money and water. Powell estimates that, after the completion of the second phase of the project, Miami will save about $250,000 and one million gallons of water annually from the system.

Junior Mary Adeline Lewis, one of two student trustees for the Board of Trustees, said she supports the board’s decision to approve the system’s second phase.

“This expansion and investment will help achieve these goals, while also improving on the overall culture and understanding of sustainability across the campus,” Lewis said.

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