UC Berkeley drilling boreholes to store, reuse heat emissions for carbon-free campus

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- U.C. Berkeley started drilling a new borehole Wednesday as part of its plan for a sustainable future. The borehole goes around 400 feet underground and will be used to test the soil. Their goal is to use the ground as a way to store heat emitted by products like air conditioning.

"There is a heat difference like from an air conditioning," said Dr. Kenichi Soga, project manager and civil engineering professor. "We can store that excess heat and use it to heat our buildings in the winter."

U.C. Berkeley has a plan to go all electric on the campus by the next decade. The way this specific project works is by drilling boreholes in the ground and creating heat storage chambers. Heat emitted will be stored below the surface and released into buildings to heat them. This would limit the use of furnaces and other products that consume energy.

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"We currently burn natural gas for our heat and our electricity for our campus, but that releases a lot of CO2," Soga said. "But now the campus is moving to electrification, meaning are heating and cooling will be electrified. This will be a sustainable way of heating."

Right now the university has one in place as a test module. They hope the soil can hold the heat. Once they have determined that it can, U.C. Berkeley will add more drilling sites on the campus. University officials say it will be a much more sustainable energy method.

"The earth can help us solve the problems we are creating for the earth," said Sally McGarrahan, Vice Chancellor for University Facilities. "It will allow us to have a move efficient system, which will be a smaller system and also a less expensive system."

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