New East Plant builds on commitment to sustainability

Author: Donnetta McClellan

Geothermal well drilling

A thermal energy production and storage facility under construction on the northeast edge of campus will help the University of Notre Dame meet growing campus energy needs while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The East Plant, which officials expect to bring online in 2019, is part of Notre Dame’s long-term strategy to cut carbon emissions by using more renewable and recoverable energy sources in accordance with its Comprehensive Sustainability Strategy announced in 2016.

The 30,000-square-foot East Plant will house the mechanical equipment for the new geothermal well fields located beneath the adjacent Ricci Fields. The plant includes two 2,000-ton electric-driven chillers and a thermal energy storage tank with the capacity to store 2 million gallons of chilled water.

“This new facility supports campus energy growth using efficient and renewable energy strategies,” said Paul Kempf, senior director of utilities and maintenance. “The East Plant will be the conduit for our largest geothermal project by utilizing efficient electricity produced at the existing power plant and providing chilled water for cooling and hot water for heating.”

With a capacity of 1,350 tons, the East Plant’s five geothermal heat recovery chillers will provide both heating and cooling. The chilled water they produce will be a source for the campus distribution system while the hot water will be piped to nearby buildings to provide an efficient and greener approach to heating.

The new thermal energy storage system will provide an efficient and cost-effective way for the University to meet campus peak energy needs by supplementing operating chillers during peak energy use hours. The thermal energy storage tank will store chilled water generated by the East Plant during off-peak hours. This stored chilled water can then be used to mitigate the need to run additional chillers during on peak periods.  The thermal energy storage system can provide up to 16,000 ton hours of chilled water.

Three new buildings on the northeast side of campus, Dunne, Flaherty and McCourtney halls, have all been designed and built to use the hot water heating available from the geothermal system. The University anticipates incorporating this heating strategy into future campus buildings.

The East Plant is one of several utilities projects that are either in progress or planned in order to continue to meet the University’s carbon reduction goals.

Contact: Paul Kempf, senior director of utilities and maintenance, (574) 631-6594,