Oregon Institute of Technology (OIT) had an official groundbreaking in January for a geothermal well that will provide enough energy to fully power the university campus.

While the plant will save OIT up to $500,000 a year in energy costs, and perhaps even generate money by creating extra energy to sell on the market, it also is an important demonstration of how geothermal energy can be used.

The biggest element of the project involves a new well that will be up to 6,000 feet deep, tapping into water sources as hot as 300 degrees F. A 105-foot tall drill will install the well, which will power a generator providing between 1.5 megawatts to 3 megawatts of electrical power. ThermaSource Inc. will complete the nearly mile-deep well.

The $8.5 million project is paid for through a combination of state and federal funds, other grants and tax credits. It will convert the school’s existing geothermal-produced power into a 280-kilowatt generator that will meet up to 20 percent of OIT’s energy needs.

Within a year, OIT will become the first campus in the world powered entirely by its own renewable geothermal source. The $4.5 million high-heat plant will produce enough energy to power the entire Klamath Falls campus and then some.

Eventually, the geothermal system could become part of a renewable energy park at OIT, where students will get hands-on experience with solar, wind and biofuels.

The school already saves about $1 million annually in heating costs and plans to make about $200,000 by selling geothermal heat.