Ohio's Miami University Tapping Geothermal to Shift from Fossil Power

Feb. 13, 2024
The geothermal wells will help Miami University convert its heating and cooling from the fossil-powered steam systems into carbon neutral energy generated by the earth’s heated core.

Miami University of Ohio is drilling down to deepen its commitment to phase out its campus fossil-fuel power systems.

The 215-year-old university in Oxford, Ohio, later this spring will break ground on a project to eventually drill more than 500 wells almost 850 feet deep to tap into geothermal power, according to a report by the school’s media site The Miami Student.

The geothermal wells will help Miami University convert its heating and cooling from the fossil-powered steam systems into carbon neutral energy generated by the earth’s heated core. The campus is publicly committed to reaching carbon neutral goals by 2045.

According to the Miami University website, a decade ago nearly all of its Oxford campus buildings were heated by carbon-powered steam generation systems. Now less than half of those are still supplied by fossil power, and school leadership plans to be nearly 100-percent geothermal for heating and cooling by 2026, according to reports.

Historically, many campuses such as Miami of Ohio possess on-site combined heat and power (CHP) microgrids such as coal or gas-fired turbines and engines. Many of those operated as de facto microgrids, dedicated to maintaining power on-campus sometimes independently of the utility grid system.

And many schools now are moving toward clean energy microgrids, including projects at Princeton University, University of California at San Diego and Gallaudet University in Washington, DC.

The University of Toronto, which has an on-campus solar and battery storage microgrid, was recently honored as the No. 1 campus for sustainability by higher education analytics firm QS Quacquarelli Symonds.

Other higher education campuses operating or working toward installing microgrids include Santa Rosa Junior College (California), Montclair State University (New Jersey) and St. Thomas University in Minnesota, among others. Many campuses also operate CHP systems on-site.

Miami University as reported reducing its carbon footprint 45% per gross square feet since 2008, according to the school's website. 

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About the Author

Rod Walton, Managing Editor | Managing Editor

For Microgrid Knowledge editorial inquiries, please contact Managing Editor Rod Walton at [email protected].

I’ve spent the last 15 years covering the energy industry as a newspaper and trade journalist. I was an energy writer and business editor at the Tulsa World before moving to business-to-business media at PennWell Publishing, which later became Clarion Events, where I covered the electric power industry. I joined Endeavor Business Media in November 2021 to help launch EnergyTech, one of the company’s newest media brands. I joined Microgrid Knowledge in July 2023. 

I earned my Bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma. My career stops include the Moore American, Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise, Wagoner Tribune and Tulsa World, all in Oklahoma . I have been married to Laura for the past 33-plus years and we have four children and one adorable granddaughter. We want the energy transition to make their lives better in the future. 

Microgrid Knowledge and EnergyTech are focused on the mission critical and large-scale energy users and their sustainability and resiliency goals. These include the commercial and industrial sectors, as well as the military, universities, data centers and microgrids. The C&I sectors together account for close to 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.

Many large-scale energy users such as Fortune 500 companies, and mission-critical users such as military bases, universities, healthcare facilities, public safety and data centers, shifting their energy priorities to reach net-zero carbon goals within the coming decades. These include plans for renewable energy power purchase agreements, but also on-site resiliency projects such as microgrids, combined heat and power, rooftop solar, energy storage, digitalization and building efficiency upgrades.

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