Catawba College Construction Project

Residents and visitors to the area may be wondering what the construction project is at Catawba College along West Innes Street. Did something break they need to repair? Is it a new building? Well, it is neither of those.

Furthering their commitment to sustainability initiatives, Catawba is excited to be installing a closed-loop geothermal system in the heart of campus at the Chapel Circle green space.

The cutting-edge geothermal system is poised to revolutionize the way energy is harnessed for the campus library, promising efficient and clean heating and cooling. The new system will significantly reduce environmental impact curtailing at least 265 MMBTU of fossil gas and 145,724 kWh of purchased electrical energy usage annually. This translates to a remarkable decrease of 51 metric tons of carbon emissions, equivalent to the environmental impact of 11.3 gasoline-powered passenger vehicles driven for one year.

So, how does this geothermal system work? The closed-loop system operates by continuously circulating water through buried pipes. These pipes facilitate the exchange of heat with the ground, adapting to seasonal variations. The closed-loop system uses the same water repeatedly, eliminating the need for constant replenishment. Geothermal systems leverage the ground as an efficient storage solution, resulting in exceptionally high energy efficiency. The system stores excess heat generated during summer cooling in the ground, retrieving it in the winter for heating purposes.

The project began at the beginning of January. A total of 38 will be drilled from now through March. Additional infrastructure enhancements will begin in March. As part of the upgrade, all existing HVAC units will be replaced with high-efficiency geothermal heat pumps. The entire project is slated for completion at the start of the Fall 2024 semester.

Catawba College is proud to spearhead this initiative, marking another significant step towards a more sustainable future. The implementation of the geothermal system underscores their commitment to environmental stewardship and will serve as a model for sustainable energy solutions in educational institutions.

In April 2023, Catawba announced they were the first certified institution in the Southeast and just the 13th in the nation to reach carbon neutrality seven years ahead of their 2030 climate commitment. They were also the first campus in the US to add Haven solar shelters from Research Triangle Park, NC-based Spotlight Solar. Catawba also recently installed a new electric vehicle charging station for visitors.

You can read more about their numerous sustainability initiatives on their website:

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