“I’m excited about the possibilities that geothermal heating brings to Grounds, including environmental sustainability and efficiency, and I’m grateful to Paul and his colleagues for the planning work that has now yielded results for the Manning Institute and beyond,” UVA President Jim Ryan said of the project.
Zmick said the test wells bored in the fall proved the project was feasible.
“We drilled five wells, at 600 feet deep and 6 inches in diameter, and did the thermal testing on all five,” Zmick said.
The five wells where testing was completed were located at Fontaine Research Park, at Facilities Management, Nameless Field, Carr’s Hill Field and the Park on North Grounds.
Finding water in the test bores indicated a good capacity for heat retention, Zmick said.
Workers inserted pipes in each test well, filled them with heated water, and Zmick’s crew measured the resulting heat retention for 48 hours.
In the system, the hot water stored in the wells can be retrieved as needed, and coupled with heat recovery chillers to produce and distribute heat to the institute.
“The test numbers indicate that we have a solid basis to move forward with geoexchange on Grounds,” Zmick said.
Exploring geothermal exchange is part of an effort to save on utility costs and to move the University toward carbon neutrality by 2030.
Donald Sundgren, associate vice president and chief facilities officer, said geoexchange is a significant part of UVA’s strategy to reach that carbon goal and to become fossil-fuel free by 2050.
“The opportunities afforded by coupling geoexchange with heat recovery chillers are significant, both in carbon reduction and the associated cost savings,” Sundgren said. “It is exciting to now be moving forward with the first of those projects, and in particular applying the technologies to serve the new Institute of Biotechnology.”
The heat plant for the Manning Institute will be connected to the wells installed under a parking lot. Each well will have two pipes connected to it, a supply and return. The project will be large enough to heat other buildings if needed.