Oregon Tech runs on geothermal

U.S. Department of Energy recognizes Klamath Falls school after second geothermal plant opens

By Andrew Clevenger / The Bulletin / @andclev

Published Apr 24, 2014 at 12:01AM

WASHINGTON — Days after the Oregon Institute of Technology unveiled a new 1.75-megawatt geothermal power plant, the U.S. Department of Energy praised the Klamath Falls school for its commitment to renewable energy.

Oregon Tech cut the ribbon on its new $14.7 million plant on Friday, said Charlie Jones, director of the school’s Oregon Renewable Energy Center. The new plant joins a 280-kilowatt geothermal plant that has been in operation since 2010.

The U.S. Department of Energy contributed $4.5 million to the new plant, which is projected to save $400,000 in energy costs each year.

“The department’s investments at the Oregon Institute of Technology are another example of how partnerships with academia, industry and the private sector can help cut energy waste and pollution while reducing energy bills,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz in a prepared statement. “OIT’s use of cutting-edge technology and its commitment to a clean energy future help diversify our energy supply while also bringing us closer to the Administration’s goal of doubling renewable energy for a second time by 2020.”

The new plant pumps water approaching 200 degrees Fahrenheit from more than 5,300 feet below the surface to spin two turbines. The water is then pumped through the building as a heat source before returning to the ground.

“It’s really a laboratory for our student programs,” Jones said. “Our students can see firsthand the benefit and how the resource can be used for power generation.”

Oregon Tech was the first school in the country to offer a bachelor’s degree in renewable energy engineering, he said.

Between the geothermal power and the 2 megawatts of solar energy generated by 7,800 solar panels near the school’s football stadium, Oregon Tech is the first university in North America to generate most, if not all, of its power from renewable sources, according to the Department of Energy.

The two geothermal units save more than 3,100 tons of carbon dioxide each year, which is the equivalent of taking 545 cars off the road, according to Energy Trust of Oregon, which also provided funds for the project.

— Reporter: 202-662-7456, aclevenger@bendbulletin.com