The Department of Energy recognized the Oregon Institute of Technology (OIT) for boosting its use of clean energy at the first campus in America to be heated by geothermal energy, achieving a major milestone toward its goal of making all seven campuses in the university system carbon-neutral by 2020.
Partially through DOE support, the Klamath Falls campus will use 1.5 MW of geothermal capacity combined with a 2 MW solar power array, making OIT the first university in North America to generate most — if not all — electric power from renewable sources.
“The Department’s investments at the Oregon Institute of Technology are another example of how partnerships with academia, industry and the private sector can help cut energy waste and pollution while reducing energy bills,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “OIT’s use of cutting-edge technology and its commitment to a clean energy future help diversify our energy supply while also bringing us closer to the Administration’s goal of doubling renewable energy for a second time by 2020.”
The school’s Geo-Heat Center has been tapping its geothermal resources to heat campus buildings for nearly fifty years. Beginning in 2008, the DOE helped fund further development of the geothermal resources beneath the campus and supported the purchase of an initial 280 kW geothermal power system.
By 2010, the small binary unit was producing power for the school’s facilities, and the groundwork was laid to utilize additional geothermal energy through an DOE investment of $3.5 million, with a matching cost-share by the university.
An additional $1 million investment through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act developed an innovative technology to generate electricity from low-temperature geothermal resources at an estimated 20 percent cost savings over conventional binary systems. Industry partner Johnson Controls Inc., provided $4 million in cost-share to demonstrate this novel, nearly emission-free technology at Klamath Falls, leveraging the previously funded work on the OIT campus.