DC’s plans for geothermal energy centre ‘heat up’

DC’s plans for geothermal energy centre ‘heat up’

Durham College is set to get a little more green next year as the aging Simcoe Building is demolished and a renewable energy centre is set up in its place.

Durham MPP Granville Anderson was on campus March 12 to announce the provincial government will give $14.7 million toward upgrades to DC’s existing green technology and to begin the first phase of the construction of a geothermal energy centre.

Geothermal energy is a form of renewable energy that deals mainly with heating and cooling of buildings. This type of green energy originates deep underground and is tapped into by way of drilling.

Doug Crossman, manager of Mechanical Systems and Energy for DC, says the college’s plans for a geothermal system are known as a borehole thermal energy storage system (BTESS). The system involves drilling deep “boreholes” into the earth and installing piping through the holes.

“Once we bore about 500 feet into the ground the temperature remains fairly constant,” says Crossman. “We pull some of that temperature out of the ground [in colder months] and through refrigerant we use it to heat buildings.”

Crossman says during the summer months the centre will pump heat underground through the same holes for storage until the warm weather ends.

Geothermal energy does not produce greenhouse gasses, but the heat pumps and refrigerant systems use external power. This means geothermal, when used alongside other renewable forms of electricity generation, is a zero emission system.

“Ideally you are able to obtain the maximum amount of emission reduction through a combination of emissions-free generating systems and geothermal BTESS-type systems,” says Crossman. “Those are the most effective types of systems.”

The geothermal field will be located on the current site of the Simcoe Building, which is scheduled for closure and demolition later this year. The project will be completed in several phases, with the first phase to be completed over the course of this year and next.

Durham College president Don Lovisa says the field will provide more benefits to the school beyond emissions reduction. He says the site will be used as a “working classroom” space for students.

“The Simcoe Geothermal Field, along with a connected heat-pump plant will become a living lab on-campus that will be incorporated into the curricula of numerous programs to address new green energy technologies and careers,” says Lovisa.

The bulk of the investment, more than $9 million, will be used for the construction of the BTESS system. The remainder will be allocated to upgrading DC’s “green technology,” such as automated lights, as well as an interest-free loan to fund projects which are yet-to-be-determined.

In his announcement, Anderson called the geothermal project “exciting and wonderful.l”

“I am extremely proud that [geothermal energy production] will be implemented in our community,” he said.