Geothermal System Expanding Across Broadway Bridge to Boise State Campus

 By Frank Zang

Click photo for a full-sized map. 

Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo, Boise Mayor Dave Bieter and representatives from Boise State University announced the further expansion of renewable and natural geothermal heat in Boise on July 7. The expansion marks phase two of a project to bring geothermal heat across the Boise River and complete a loop through the Boise State University campus.

The first phase, announced in the spring of 2009, will bring the geothermal pipeline across the Capitol Boulevard Bridge. Phase two of the project, funded by matching grant money from the Department of Energy and Department of Housing and Urban Development, along with Boise State and the City of Boise, will complete the geothermal loop back across the Broadway Avenue bridge.

Six existing campus buildings will be connected to the system in phase one, including the Morrison Center, Multipurpose Classroom Building, Interactive Learning Center, Administration Building, Student Union Building and the Mathematics and Geosciences Building. Future facilities to be served by phase one are the new College of Business and Economics building and the Capitol Village redevelopment area. The phase two extension near University Drive to Broadway will provide geothermal heat for the Center for Environmental Science and Economic Development and the Norco Building.

When completed, about one million square feet of building space will be heated from geothermal energy. The project is currently undergoing environmental review with construction expected to occur in the summer of 2011. Boise State is a member of the Intermountain West Geothermal Consortium formed by industry, government and university researchers in Idaho, Utah, Nevada and Oregon.

The City of Boise has operated a geothermal district heating system since 1983. Natural geothermal water hotter than 170 degrees is pumped from the ground near St. Luke’s Regional Medical Center, distributed through the downtown area and re-injected into the geothermal aquifer near Julia Davis Park. The system currently serves 58 customers, heating approximately 3.8 million square feet of building space.

Several buildings benefiting from this low-cost, environmentally-friendly heating source are publicly owned, including the Federal Courthouse, City Hall, Boise High School, Ada County Courthouse and the Boise Centre. In the course of a year, the system circulates more than 190 million gallons of water through nearly 13 miles of pipeline.

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