Stockton’s Stiles Helps Keep School at Energy’s Cutting Edge Since its opening in 1971 few schools have

demonstrated the commitment to alternative energy to the degree of Richard Stockton College in southeastern New Jersey. Founded in the wake of the first generation of environmentally conscious college students, Stockton has been at the forefront of energy innovation for nearly four decades. Professor and Coordinator of Energy Studies Lynn Stiles arrived at Stockton in 1973 when the spirit of trendsetting was near its peak. His approach to sustainable and renewable energy perfectly matched that of his employer. The seriousness with which the school takes its mission can be seen in the layout and operations of the campus. 400,000 square feet of the campus is heated by a closed loop Borehole Thermal Energy Storage (BTES) system. BTES was installed in 1994 when 400 holes were drilled 425 feet into the ground and tubing was subsequently inserted, grouted and then linked to heat pumps. The signature energy project at Stockton, however, is a one-of-a-kind-in-the-US Aquifer Thermal Energy Storage (ATES) system which was installed in 2008. Working in concert with local geology, the ATES collects underground water in the winter months, chills it with a cooling tower utilizing the cold outside air, re-injects it in another set of wells and then uses it to cool the campus during the toasty New Jersey summers. The experience with the existing BTES system made the decision to install this system that much easier. Stiles has been a long-time advocate of geothermal energy and had studied ATES systems in the Netherlands, of which there are over a thousand. “We have a climate and soil similar to the Netherlands in this part of the state,” (Stiles). Taking advantage of the landscape was efficient from both a financial and environmental perspective. While promoting the idea of greater geothermal energy use in the United States, Stiles understands that barriers do exist. “A lot of people still look at it (geothermal energy) as an option that hasn’t been fully studied” he says. “When in fact it’s been researched and installed successfully for over 30 years.” Even though a system like ATES will pay for itself in savings several times over during the life of its operation, the start up costs can be significant. In costconscious times, that is all planners need to hear to be deterred. “The payback period is only five to ten years, which is shorter than the plants that end up being built and results in a return of investment of 8 to 15%. Where can you get that kind of return on investment?,” Stiles adds.

Furthermore, because geothermal energy is so rarely used, there is an educational gap among potential practitioners. “Many engineers just don’t know how to design it in a cost effective way,” Stiles says. This only leads to further resistance. In fact, Stockton ended up bringing in a Dutch firm to install ATES. Geothermal systems are not Stockton’s only pursuits into alternative energy. Photovoltaic panels have been installed for decades. A 250 kW fuel cell plant helped heat the campus from 2003 to 2008. The system was ultimately sold back to the manufacturer when the price of fuel became cost prohibitive. But the ATES has had no such financial setbacks. Stiles believes that in the long run rising fuel costs could make geothermal energy too attractive to ignore. The completion of ATES may seem like the culmination of a career of geothermal energy advocacy, but Stiles and Stockton are always striving for greater efficiency and a smaller footprint. One idea is to limit the use of heat pumps, since they detract from overall efficiency. While Stiles and his colleagues work on that challenge, they take every opportunity to show off the ATES system to the many visitors who come to study it in search of clues to energy independence. SOURCES: NS/8A-1.pdf m IVES.pdf Phone interview with Lynn Stiles 26 May 2010.