Notre Dame is one of the most well known American college football teams in America. David Harker writes on the WNDU-TV website about the efforts for the university to become more environmentally friendly by the development of geothermal at the football stadium.
New sports fields at Notre Dame to also generate renewable energy
If you have driven on the north side of Notre Dame’s campus lately, you may have done a double take at the large mounds of dirt being piled up.
It’s all in an effort for the University to become more environmentally friendly.
“We’re moving, obviously, a lot of earth, and a lot of people ask questions,” said Paul Kempf, senior director of utilities and maintenance at Notre Dame. “They see these huge piles of dirt.”
Massive mounds of soil have piled up recently, leading to questions about what the university is up to next.
“This is Ricci fields,” Kempf said. “It’s going to be three new athletic fields for recreational sports facilities.”
But it turns out that these fields have a dual purpose: sports and renewable energy.
“We’ve had a long history of diversified means of producing energy,” Kempf explained. “Admittedly, it’s always been fossil fuel based. Obviously, as times have changed, we’re trying to diversify in other areas, which would be renewable and recoverable energy.”
Kempf told me what impact one of those sources of renewable energy means for the university.
“Geothermal is one of a number of initiatives that we’re working on,” he said. “We currently are constructing three different well fields, producing about 2,650 tons of cooling or heating energy, which could essentially heat and cool about fifteen percent of the campus as we know it today.”
To understand how the process works, a trip to the wellfield provides some more insight.
“It’s a 1,350 ton wellfield,” Kempf explained. “It’ll be about 700 individual wells. Each well is about 300 feet deep. They’re about 20 feet on center.”
“They’ll drill those wells, pipe them together, and then build the earth back up and lay the field turf fields that will go in here after that,” he continued.
This closed loop system will then connect to a chiller plant just east of Wilson Drive.
“Closed loop geothermal means that we are not pulling water out of the ground,” Kempf said. “We basically have water that is in a system that’s a closed pipe. It’s a two-inch pipe that goes down 300 feet and comes back up. You’re basically using the earth as a condenser.”
Depth is key because you want to be able to utilize the most amount of energy the earth has to offer.
This geothermal process is dependent on a temperature below the earth’s surface of fifty degrees. Water moving through the pipes deep in the ground is cooled during the summer months because the temperature underground is cooler than the air temperature above.
This allows for the generation of cooler air on campus where needed. The reverse occurs during the winter months when it is colder above ground than below.
This is just one of the many environmentally friendly projects going on at Notre Dame.
“Renewable-wise, we’re obviously doing the geothermal,” Kempf said. “We’re looking at some solar projects. We’re looking with the city of South Bend on a potential hydroplant downtown.”
“I always tell people it’s a lot like buying stocks,” he continued. “You don’t put all your money in one investment. You diversify your portfolio, and that’s essentially what we’re trying to do.”
But what about those giant dirt mounds on campus?
“I think you’ll see toward later fall, we will be out of the well drilling phase, and they’ll be back to putting the fields in,” Kempf said.
The fields expected are completed this fall, and they will be used by the Notre Dame Marching Band and other sports teams at the university.
When asked about the return on investment, Kempf said that may not happen immediately, but these geothermal wellfields could take about 15 years.