Iowa Wesleyan College strives for sustainability with geothermal energy


Photo by Peter Nijenhuis, Flickr

By replacing their dated central steam system with a geothermal energy system, Iowa Wesleyan College in Mt. Pleasant will lower their carbon emissions while saving money.

The Iowa Association of Independent Colleges and Universities reports that the implementation of a geothermal system is well worth its $4.9 million dollar cost in the long run:

“After extensive research and planning, we are ready to implement this comprehensive energy project, which will provide energy efficiency ratings in the mid-90th percentile,” said IWC President Dr. Jay Simmons. The energy efficiency improvements will reduce Iowa Wesleyan’s carbon emissions by more than 1,390,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. That is the equivalent of removal of emissions from more than 117 cars annually, or the planting of more than 186 acres of trees annually, according to the system manufacturer.

“In addition to the significant positive impact this system will have on the environment, it will also provide a huge reduction in expenditures for the College,” Simmons said. Annual energy and operational savings are projected to be more than $400,000 a year.

Iowa Wesleyan is not alone in switching to geothermal energy. The National Wildlife Federation released a report in February noting the success campuses have had with geothermal energy, while also projecting the benefits if more schools switch to these sustainable systems:

The nation’s 4,100 two- and four-year colleges and universities, which spend more than $20 billion each year on energy ($5 million per campus on average), could collectively save between $2-7 billion in energy costs and cut the nation’s carbon footprint by up to one percent annually by using geothermal technologies for the majority of heated and cooled space. The stakes for colleges and universities are considerable; the University of Illinois alone spends approximately $100 million annually on energy. Energy costs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison spiked 77% between 2001 and 2006, even though square footage rose by only 7% during that time.    

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