3 Things Ball State Taught Me In 1 Day

Monday, November 11, 2013

Last week, I had the pleasure of giving a presentation at the 1st annual Geothermal Conclave hosted by Ball State University. Going into it, I expected another day of business-as-usual - watch a handful of presentations, eat lunch and head home. I didn't expect to walk away excited about the project and re-energized about work going into the perennially slow winter season.

The day-long event highlighted Ball State’s massive new geothermal installation, with a wide range of presentations that covered industry and academic experience gained throughout the project to-date and finished with a tour of the 47-building district-scale ground-source-heat-pump geothermal heating/cooling system.

Here are 3 things I learned from the event:

  1. We need more GSHP system owners like Ball State.
    Ball State is an extremely valuable asset and advocate to our industry. They are very proactive about getting the word out and they are sharing all they can about their system. They have various projects – performance monitoring, life-cycle cost studies, etc. and intend to share every piece of information they are able to put together. BSU is willing to serve as the model that all other universities can look to when weighing the decision to convert their own campuses. So far, they are doing a fantastic job of setting the bar.
  2. Be like Jim.
    Jim Lowe, Director of Engineering and Construction Operations at BSU, is perhaps the biggest advocate of all from BSU. He gives frequent tours to all who are interested, including tours to kids from out of state. He also makes a point to visit the local schools once a month to talk about geothermal heating and cooling with kids of all ages. He has talked to representatives from more than two dozen universities about the benefits of converting their entire campus to geo. Basically, Jim is talking about geo with any and all who will listen, something we should all strive to do more often.
  3. The future of GSHPs is bright.
    With highly publicized projects like Ball State and outreach targeting the next generation of building owners, geothermal is slowly building momentum for future growth. To that end, Doug Dougherty, CEO of the Geothermal Exchange Organization (GEO) gave a featured presentation of an overview of their current efforts to promote and expand geo technology. GEO is working diligently to extend the federal tax credits that are due to expire in 2016. It’s still too soon to tell, but early signs point to an extension through 2020.

In short, I learned that Ball State’s academic approach to their installation is beneficial to the geothermal industry as a whole. They are helping to provide the real time data that many in the industry have sought for years. They are educating the community about geothermal as a very practical solution for lowering energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions and they are using their investment as an opportunity to promote geothermal nationally.

For those who didn’t make it, another Geothermal Conclave event is in the works to take place sometime in April 2014. In the meantime, check out Going Geothermal, video courtesy of Ball State University.