Durham College’s new geothermal field has warming (and cooling) effect

Doug Crossman at the Energy Innovation Centre. Photo credit: Jeremy Corrivault-Luxton

A new $10.4 million geothermal heating system is open at Durham College (DC).

The geothermal field is located below the grounds of the old Simcoe Building, west of the Centre for Collaborative Education.

The geothermal field’s job is to cycle water through the field and return it to heat pumps where it is used to provide heating and cooling to DC’s Gordon Willey Building as needed, says Doug Crossman, DC’s director, facilities management.

He says during the summer they pull the heat out of the building and deposit it to the geothermal field for the wintertime and the process is reversed.

The Energy Innovation Centre is now operating. Photo credit: Jeremy Corrivault-Luxton

It is the largest geothermal field at a college in Ontario, says Barbara MacCheyne, DC’s vice-president, administration and chief financial officer.

Crossman says they designed the geothermal field with 150 boreholes that keeps the system in a state of equilibrium over a one-year cycle.

“When the geothermal is operating in the winter we no longer require our gas-fired boilers, reducing our carbon footprint,” says Crossman.

The geothermal system runs on electricity. The school also saves maintenance costs as the boilers and associated equipment do not need as much service, he says.

Crossman says they are currently in the monitoring and verification process for the next year to make sure they are actually meeting their operating targets.

MacCheyne says most of the project cost – $9.1 million – was funded through a government grant.

The project helps with DC’s ‘green’ initiatives, says MacCheyne. The school has won multiple awards, such as Canada’s Greenest Employers, for two consecutive years.

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Touch screen for students to check out information about the field. Photo credit: Jeremy Corrivault-Luxton

Any student can come check out the EIC. The building has a touch screen explaining what the system is doing, says Crossman.

MacCheyne says students in at least three DC programs will be able to work with the geothermal field in their curriculum.

“It’s great for the students they’re learning technology that they are going to use in their workforce,” says MacCheyne.

The planning and construction took around a year, she says.

MacCheyne says the EIC will help ease heating and cooling costs on campus and reduce the carbon footprint.

She says the location was very convenient and it was important for DC to have it close to the Gordon Willey Building. She says you can’t build any buildings over the field.

In the future they are looking to add and connect the Student Services Building and the CFCE building to the geothermal field, says Crossman.