Daniel Chi / Asst. photo editor
Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee “can’t even remember” what the South Oval looks like before construction but said he has no regrets about the multi-million dollar geothermal wells construction project that has closed most of it since Fall Quarter 2010.
During an interview with The Lantern editorial staff on March 25, Gee pointed out the snow on the ground as an example of why becoming a “carbon neutral” university is an important goal of his in a time where climate change is on the forefront of many people’s minds.
“Our goal is … to be carbon neutral, (to be) environmentally conscience. That’s the reason we’re digging all of these geothermal wells,” Gee said. “I do believe that the South Oval will recover one of these days. It’s been so long, I can’t even remember what it looks like.”
The project is expected to be completed in October. In November 2011, the project was at least $200,000 over budget after letting Maryland-based Chesapeake Geosystems, Inc. out of its contract.
The $10.3 million project that was intended to use geothermal energy to heat and cool South Campus was delayed after ineffective drilling methods prompted the university to part ways with Chesapeake Geosystems, Inc.
The geothermal wells are expected to produce energy from the internal heat of the earth, which will be used to heat buildings on South Campus.
The Office of Energy and Environment at OSU played a role in the decision to drill the wells, said OEE spokeswoman Gina Langen.
“We’re the ones saying that, economically this would be a really good thing. Not only economically, but environmentally, sustainability wise – the right decision for Ohio State,” Langen said.
The construction is scheduled to wrap up in fall 2013, and some students said they are happy to be able to enjoy the South Oval once again.
“It was such a pretty area, so it’s so sad that it was fenced off and destroyed like that, but I’m excited to see what it will look like when it’s done,” said Ashlee Slyman, a third-year in psychology.
For many students, the South Oval has been unusable for most of their years on campus.
“I remember the South Oval not having construction on it during a very brief time during my freshman year, and then, ever since then, it’s been a huge mess, in the way when I’m trying to walk to class,” Slyman said. “(However, the wells are) a good investment for the long run that needed to be done.”
OSU is also making investments in alternative energy in other areas.
“We’re buying wind from anyone that will sell it to us, and now about 25 to 30 percent of our electricity is provided by wind power,” Gee said.
The university announced Oct. 1 that it signed a letter of intent with Iberdrola Renewables to purchase 50 megawatts of wind energy capacity.
According to Clean Energy Authority, a website that provides energy information, one megawatt is equivalent to the energy produced by 10 automobile engines.
The Blue Creek Wind Farm features 152 Gamesa G90, 2.0 MW wind turbines producing a capacity of 304 megawatts, according to the Iberdrola Renewables website. The wind farm is Ohio’s largest commercial wind project and can power about 76,000 homes annually.
OSU plans to save $1 million a year by using wind energy.
OSU uses 25 percent of the energy the wind turbines at Blue Creek Wind Farm produces in northwest Ohio and would like to purchase more when it becomes available, Langen said.
“We’ve maxed out what that wind farm can do,” Langen said.
Gee said the money being spent on projects is an investment for future generations of OSU students.
“It’s not so much about what we do, it’s about the standard we set. It’s about what we do for the next generation,” Gee said.