Interview with Jim Lowe of Ball State University – Solutions #27 District Heating and #42 Heat Pumps

[Almost any building could do this] …as small as a residential unit to as big as our campus. So the potential is huge here in Indiana.

Jim Lowe

Introduction

Jim Lowe is Associate VP for Facilities Planning and Management at Ball State University. He also chair’s the President’s sustainability working group.

Project Drawdown is the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming. An international coalition of more than 200 researchers and other experts identified and modeled the 100 most substantive, already existing solutions for addressing global warming.

Thanks in part to Jim’s leadership, Ball State University implemented two powerful Drawdown solutions:

In fact, it’s the largest system of its kind in the nation. As a result they’ve:

  • Saved almost $3m annually on their utility bill and
  • Cut their entire campus’s carbon footprint in half

The Interview

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Interview with Jim Lowe on August 12th, 2019.

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Key Lessons

I have children. I have grandchildren. If you think about their life looking forward… we all have a responsibility to make sure that we maintain an environment that can be healthy for them in the future.

And it’s the right thing to do. It’s a beautiful world we live in. We have a great country. We all have a responsibility to make sure we maintain it that way.

Jim Lowe

In Ball State’s old coal system, for every $1 they put in they got $0.50 back. In this new system, for every $1 they put in they get $7 back.

Ball State University will be carbon neutral by 2030. This geothermal system gets them half way there.

EPA regulations spurred this high ROI investment.

They wanted a renewable energy source. First they considered using Drawdown solution #51, perennial biomass (specifically switchgrass). Eventually they went with geothermal heat pumps.

Their system involves 47 buildings, 5.5 million square feet, and more than 731 acres.

It cost $70m and saves $2.5 – $3m annually on utility costs

They’ve entertained over 40 tours by other universities curious about their system.

There’s enormous potential for district heating and geothermal heat pumps in Indiana.

One American Square in downtown Indianapolis (near Washington and Illinois) uses similar technology to heat and cool 1 million square feet of buildings.

Currently, there is no single clearinghouse for information about district heating and geothermal heat pumps in Indiana.

More

See this particular solution’s unique page on Indiana Drawdown.

In this video, Dr. Robert Koester describes how they developed a new methodology for earning and selling carbon offsets while implementing these Drawdown solutions. Indiana can be very proud of Ball State’s leadership in the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. You can also review their indepth carbon offset project documentation the VCS database.

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