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Antioch College to begin construction on Central Geothermal Plant

YELLOW SPRINGS, Ohio — Antioch College continues to chart new and better paths to integrate sustainability across all aspects of its operation by building a central geothermal plant that will significantly reduce power usage on campus. Construction on 150 geothermal wells is slated to begin Nov. 1, 2013. Once completed, Antioch College will be the only school in the country that's heated and cooled exclusively by geothermal and photovoltaic power.

The cost of building the central geothermal plant to heat and cool the Antioch campus is approximately $8.8 million for the entire College, according to Thomas R. Brookey, the College’s chief operating officer. The cost of Phase I is $4.7 million.

“Antioch is committed to conserving and protecting natural resources and reducing its carbon footprint to the greatest degree possible,” says Brookey. “We estimate that the central geothermal plant and a large solar array will cut campus energy costs by approximately $400,000 annually once the campus is fully developed.”

About Geothermal
In very simple terms, geothermal central plant systems, such as that planned for Antioch College, use the constant temperature of the earth just below the surface to provide the energy for heating and cooling. A well field is drilled with a closed loop system of piping that circulates water through the wells and the mechanical systems in the buildings on campus.

During the summer months, the water is circulated to the buildings, where it absorbs heat from the buildings as it circulates through their mechanical systems. The effect of this absorption is to cool the building. The warmed water from the buildings then circulates back through the well field where it loses heat to the earth, which maintains a relatively steady temperature year round.

Large and efficient chillers in the central plant building boost this temperature differential and the chilled water is then circulated back through the campus continuing the cycle. The chillers operate much more efficiently since much of the cooling work is already done by the geothermal wells.

In the winter months the system is reversed. The large chillers essentially act as a heat pump to boost the temperature differential, further heating the water, which is then circulated back through the campus buildings. As with the cooling cycle, the chillers (heat pumps) operate much more efficiently as a result of the pre-heating work already done by the geothermal wells.

Second Geothermal Plant
The 2012 renovation of North Hall included a similar, but much smaller, geothermal system with the water circulating through a small chiller/heat pump in each of the rooms. The geothermal wells were sunk in the middle of the “horseshoe drive” in the middle of campus and are completely undetectable.

North Hall, one of the College’s three original buildings, has been awarded LEED Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The College completed a $5.7 million, state-of-the-art renovation project on the dormitory, which was constructed in 1853. North Hall is considered the second oldest building to achieve LEED certification at any level in the new construction and major renovations LEED category.

Well Field Site
The wells for the central geothermal plant will be drilled in an open area south of campus and the College farm.

“Doing this work will be loud and messy,” says Antioch College President Mark Roosevelt. “We will make every effort to contain both the noise and the mess and work will be done only from 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on weekdays. We respectfully ask our neighbors to bear with us for the next several weeks as we sink these wells.

“We know of no other college that has attempted such a comprehensive and holistic approach to sustainability across all of its education and operational programs. We expect that when we are done, a great deal of attention will be focused on Antioch and Yellow Springs as we become a national model for sustainability in higher education.”

The College expects that the well drilling portion of this phase will last approximately two months.


About Antioch College

Antioch College is a small, liberal arts institution located on a historical campus in Yellow Springs, Ohio. The College has an inspiring mission and a proud history of educating leaders and contributors to our society, including Nobel Laureates, Fulbright Scholars, MacArthur Fellows, notables in arts and culture, the sciences, the public sector, and business. Our innovative baccalaureate program integrates rigorous classroom learning with full-time work and community engagement. Commitments to social justice, sustainability, and global issues are important components of the Antioch College experience. A low student–faculty ratio provides Antioch College students with personal attention from professors who have a strong commitment to teaching. Originally founded in 1850, Antioch College is authorized by the Chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents to grant the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees.

Nicole Wroten
Assistant Director of Communications