The California Gold Rush may be over, but it doesn’t mean they’ve stopped drilling out west. Geothermal drilling is the next gold mine of renewable energy, and the Buck Institute for Research on Aging is leading the rush this year with new geothermal fields at its Novato, Calif., campus. The expert team from Trison Construction Inc. out of Oklahoma City has been working since the spring of 2011, drilling approximately 327 holes, 400 feet deep into the earth. These fields not only will support the new research facility, but they also are an integral part of retrofitting the heating and cooling system for the entire campus to incorporate geothermal energy throughout. This is allowing the institute to eliminate the exiting chilling towers, and reduce its carbon footprint, which is the equivalent of taking 9,738 cars off of the road. Novato, Calif.-based engineering firm CSW|Stuber-Stroeh Engineering Group Inc. assisted the Buck Institute in developing the siting plans that located the wells and transmission lines, and helped to minimize disturbance to the riparian area, the hilly terrain, and the existing utilities, including two high-pressure natural gas transmission mains.

The use of geothermal technology will help the institute to save $436,000 per year, conserve more than 18,000 gallons of water each day, and reduce its annual carbon footprint by 53 percent. Geothermal energy works through an energy exchange between the air within the building being heated and the ground. The earth’s temperature is fairly constant below 10 feet (generally around 61 degrees F), so, in the summer, when the temperature of the building exceeds that of the ground, heat pumps pump heat from the building into a transfer medium that then is pumped through narrow pipes into the ground where heat can be dissipated in the earth. In winter, it works in reverse – when the building temperature drops, heat pumps pull heat from the ground to warm up the building.

Since 1954, CSW|Stuber-Stroeh has provided civil engineering and related design services throughout Northern California. It is one of the largest engineering firms in the North Bay, and is known for its creative, cost-effective designs and practical, workable solutions to design challenges.