Posted by Maddy Tank '16
Last year, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Education (AASHE) presented Skidmore College with the 2012 Sustainability Leadership Award for the successful implementation of a complex geothermal heating and cooling system to serve campus buildings. In 2007, when the Northwoods Village apartments were completed, Skidmore installed its first geothermal system, and since then, both the Murray-Aikins Dining Hall and the Arthur Zankel Music Center have been made geothermal. Construction is currently underway to add a third geothermal unit under the Arts Quad, which will service Wiecking Hall, the dance gym, and the Tang.
Geothermal wells are typically drilled down to a depth between 400 to 500 feet below ground level, and heat or cool buildings by harnessing temperatures below the Earth's surface. Proponents of Geothermal laud that it is remarkably sustainable, environmentally friendly, dependable and cost effective.
Though the well behind Wiecking hall is still under construction, Paul Lundberg, the Capital Projects Supervisor for Facilities Services, said, "By December 2013, it is our plan to have all three buildings (Wiecking, the Tang and the dance gym) up and running on that field."
At the completion of the current project, 30 percent of the Skidmore campus will operate geothermally. Lundberg hopes that in the next couple of years the energy load provided by geothermal will reach 40 percent.
Marie Nicol '14, an Environmental Studies major, was excited by the geothermal project, calling it "a wonderful step that Skidmore is taking towards renewable energy" that does not "spew tons of toxins into the atmosphere or deplete our natural resources."
"Skidmore is making the initiative says a lot about our school and our effort towards true sustainability," she added.
The cost to install the geothermal systems is expected to reach roughly $1.4 million by the time it is completed-a cost which includes engineering and design, equipment, drilling bores in the well field, digging and backfilling wells and pipes. While most of the funding for the project was provided through Skidmore's normal capital budget process, Skidmore received additional funding from multiple sources including NYSERDA, the National Grid and the New York State Higher Education Capital Matching Grant Program.