Newswise — Furman University has received a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) that will allow the university to replace the aging HVAC heating and cooling system in the North Village student housing complex with an environmentally friendly and much more energy efficient geothermal heat pump system.

According to Furman president David Shi, a new geothermal heating and cooling system in North Village will save the university more than $2 million in energy costs over the next 20 years and substantially reduce its carbon footprint.

The DOE grant is part of $338 million in Recovery Act funding for the “exploration and development of new geothermal fields and research into advanced geothermal technologies.” The grants will support 123 projects in 39 states. The diverse recipients include industrial companies, academic institutions, tribal entities, local governments, and DOE’s National Laboratories.

Of the 28 colleges and universities nationwide to receive a grant, Furman was the only liberal arts college and the only institution from South Carolina. Other schools awarded grants included the University of Alaska, University of Kansas, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Utah, and Penn State University.

“We are very excited that the Department of Energy has selected Furman for this generous and timely grant,” Shi said. “Sustainability, especially environmental conservation and energy efficiency, is one of the university’s primary goals, and a new geothermal system in North Village will allow us to take a big step toward achieving our ultimate goal of climate neutrality on campus.”

A geothermal heating and cooling system uses the water stored amid the earth’s constant underground temperatures to heat residences in the winter and cool them in the summer. It is the most environmentally responsible and energy efficient HVAC system available. Jeff Redderson, Furman’s assistant vice president for Facilities Services, said the installation of the geothermal system at North Village will likely begin in the summer of 2011 and be completed by the summer of 2013.

Eighteen wells some 300-feet deep are planned for each of the complex’s 11 buildings, and a total of 275 geothermal heat pumps will be installed. More than 1,000 juniors and seniors reside in the apartment-style housing complex.

“The United States is blessed with vast geothermal energy resources, which hold enormous potential to heat our homes and power our economy,” said Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “These investments in America's technological innovation will allow us to capture more of this clean, carbon free energy at a lower cost than ever before. We will create thousands of jobs, boost our economy and help to jumpstart the geothermal industry across the United States.”

According to the Department of Energy, the grants are directed towards identifying and developing new geothermal fields and reducing the upfront risk associated with geothermal development through innovative exploration and drilling projects and data development and collection. In addition, the grants will support the deployment and creative financing approaches for ground source heat pump demonstration projects across the country.

Collectively, these projects will represent a dramatic expansion of the U.S. geothermal industry and will create or save thousands of jobs in drilling, exploration, construction, and operation of geothermal power facilities and manufacturing of ground source heat pump equipment.

For more information, visit the Department of Energy website or call Furman’s News and Media Relations office at 864-294-3107.