Geothermal

The Mine Water Geothermal team in the past has investigated and written a guidebook for old mining communities, instructing them on how to use their abandoned mine shafts as a resource to provide clean and sustainable heating and cooling. This year's team looks to expand on this project by looking at using an old mine shaft on Michigan Tech’s campus to reduce energy costs and reliance on fossil fuels.

The objective of this year’s team is to complete a feasibility study on the use of a mine water geothermal system to replace the existing HVAC at specific campus facilities, including the Gates Tennis Center.

This design project will determine the feasibility of a mine water geothermal HVAC system at the Gates Tennis Center or surrounding buildings. This will involve researching the specifics of the nearby mine shafts and determining the feasibility of using the water reservoirs contained in those mines. As this water tends to stay a consistent temperature throughout the year, it can be feasible for buildings to use the system for both heating and cooling. Our team is looking into the estimated costs of a mine water system and compare them with the known costs of a newly installed natural gas boiler system to provide a cost comparison

In regards to specifically heating and cooling the Gates Tennis Center, the benefits and drawbacks between a closed loop system and an open loop system will be considered. The team must also determine the most efficient and effective way to heat and cool the tennis center. One route is to use multiple heat pumps per space; this allows for rooms to be set at a different temperature, and can lead to cost savings in the long term. The other option is to use a central heating and cooling system, which may save money on upfront costs.

The team has also been using a small heat pump to demonstrate how the difference of water temperature can affect the coefficient of performance. This required an Arduino to read and record data points taken during experimental tests.

The team will consist of both mechanical and electrical engineering students. This multidisciplinary approach helps with peer support when determining the mathematics behind the system design. The team will be required to use heat transfer and fluid mechanics calculations to determine feasibility and sizing of the geothermal system, as well as using data processing software to establish a range of temperatures and levels associated with this unique project.