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Oregon’s own Public Technical University first in World to produce 100% of its own power with solar, geothermal energy

May 01, 2014
Oregon Tech First in the Nation to Power Campus with Onsite Renewable Energy.
dignitaries at ribbon cutting solar event

KLAMATH FALLS, ORE. – On April 18th a platform of dignitaries assembled to honor Oregon Institute of Technology’s first-in-the-world accomplishment of producing all of its campus’ energy needs using a combination of solar and geothermal renewable energy sources. To commemorate the achievement of being the first university globally to use this combination of clean energy sources to power 100% of the campus’ need, a collection of officials including U.S. Senators Wyden and Merkley, Oregon Senator Whitsett, and First Lady Hayes spoke at a ribbon cutting ceremony where they had generous praise for the project.

The campus has been entirely heated by geothermal water for several decades, and now the geothermal resource is being utilized in a 1.75-megawatt combined heat and power plant to provide electricity. Additionally, a 2.0-megawatt solar array was installed on 9 acres of campus land and commissioned at the end of last year, allowing Oregon Tech to generate all of its own electricity and heat needed to run the campus.

“The geothermal and solar projects all serve important and dual purposes for Oregon Tech,” said Christopher Maples, president of Oregon Tech. “They support the education of our students in the growing green jobs industry, and they put us closer to our goal of becoming a climate neutral campus by 2050.”

Oregon Tech built the geothermal power plants in two stages, beginning with a 0.28- megawatt module that was the first operating geothermal power plant in Oregon. The success of that system, followed by the ability to garner additional financial support, led to the installation of a 1.75- megawatt project. In combination, they generate an estimated 8,315,000 kilowatt hours annually, reducing energy costs by nearly one-half million dollars per year.

The launch of the Solar/Geothermal project provides an incredible value to Oregon Tech, its students, the community, and the state.

  • It advances the university and state’s progress on clean energy, and provided green jobs in Klamath Falls right when the community needed a boost.
  • It saves money while lowering the campus’ carbon footprint. The solar project saves about $35,000 per year and the two geothermal projects will eventually avoid higher utility costs, freezing rates at current values.
  • It’s a living, on-site laboratory for Oregon Tech students and faculty. Clean power production enriches the Renewable Energy Engineering degree program, and gets students ready for work and contributing to Oregon’s communities and economy.
  • It taps the clean energy resources available right here in Klamath Falls: the geothermal power beneath our feet; and the solar power above our heads.
  • It has never been done before. No university anywhere uses this combination of clean energy to fully power a campus, and have some to spare to donate to low-income community members.

The geothermal power plant is a first-of-its-kind system. Called a series-counter flow system, the generator was built by Johnson Controls with help from a $1 million competitively awarded US Department of Energy grant. Oregon Tech also received a $3.5 million Congressional Directed federal appropriation, about one-quarter of the full project costs, to drill the geothermal well. Energy Trust of Oregon also helped the university achieve its renewable power goal with funding to help with design and feasibility studies for both geothermal projects, and approximately $2 million in cash incentives toward the construction and installation of the projects. Pacific Power Blue Sky grants further supported the geothermal systems.

In addition to this combined heat and power system, Oregon Tech installed 7,800 ground-mounted solar electric panels next to the John F. Moehl football stadium, with a total capacity of just under 2 megawatt. The solar project is an “all-Oregon” project and is one of the largest solar photovoltaic system in the state of Oregon and the largest multiple campus, university system-based contract for solar energy in the nation.

The university received a Blue Sky grant from Pacific Power to support the system installation, which has had a positive economic impact on Klamath Falls and the surrounding areas. SolarCity, the contractor that installed the system, used all local contractors and labor to complete the project.

The combined output from the three renewable energy projects on the campus will exceed the campus electricity use by an estimated 700,000 kilowatt hours per year. That energy will be donated to Pacific Power’s low-income subsidy program, making Oregon Tech the largest non-utility net metering contributor in the state.

Initially beginning through the Oregon University System (OUS), the solar program was created as one of five renewable energy demonstrations projects that OUS developed utilizing geothermal, wave, bio-power and/or wind energy to best leverage each institution’s unique research talents, Oregon’s natural resources, the state’s clean energy goals and available funding opportunities.

To read more about this project, please visit www.oit.edu/sustainability/clean-energy. Additional articles may be found here: http://energy.gov/eere/articles/oregon-institute-technology-recognized-increasing-its-use-geothermal-and-solar-energy or www.sustainablebusinessoregon.com/articles/2014/04/oregon-college-may-be-first-in-world.html.


Funding for the $14.7 million geothermal project was provided by state-supported bonding, federal grants, Energy Trust of Oregon incentives, Pacific Power, US and Oregon Department of Energy, and Oregon Tech. Other partners instrumental in getting the two projects completed were SolarCity (contractor), U.S. Bank (US Bank was key in keeping this project viable and ensuring investors for the project), Johnson Controls (long-time Oregon Tech partner who designed and constructed the turbine and generator), our federal delegation, and state legislators.

These projects would not have been possible without the dedicated support of the Oregon Tech community, area businesses, and the many companies who worked with the university.

Adkins Construction
Applied Geotechnical Engineering and Geologic Consulting Structural Steel Sign
Bacgen Card Plumbing and Heating
Bob Simonton, Project Manager
Capuano Engineering Company (Feasibility Study and drill the deep well)
Columbia Geoscience (Feasibility Study)
Department of Geology and Mineral Industries
Diversified Adkins (Deep Well pump test and effluent pipeline design)
Department of Electrical Engineering & Renewable Energy
EGS, Inc (Feasibility Study)
Fluent Engineering (Misc Electrical stuff)
Geo-Heat Center
Geothermal Technology
Hydro Resources (Company Randy Badger worked for) (Pump) & Randy Badger Eraillure Consulting (Cultural Survey, Injection well and effluent pipeline)
John Lund
Knife River
McBride Excavation
MHA Business RMT Business Panorama (Cultural Survey)
Optium (Seismic Survey)
Oregon Department of Energy (provided tax credits over the years for solar and geothermal projects, including the current solar installation)
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
Oregon University System
Oregon Water Resources Department
Rabe Consultants
Renewable Energy Center
Renewable Energy Development Corporation (REDCO)
Rhine Cross Surveying
Superior Fence
Taylor Northwest (installed effluent pipeline)
ThermoSource Tecton Geologic Evergreen Energy (Project management early part of project)
Toni Boyd
Western Water Development (drilled injection well)
WHPacific (Pipeline design from well to power plant)
Winema Electric


About Oregon Tech
Founded in Klamath Falls in 1947, Oregon Institute of Technology is one of seven universities in the Oregon University System, and the only public institute of technology in the Pacific Northwest. Oregon Tech provides degree programs in engineering and health technologies, management, communication, and applied sciences that prepare students to be effective participants in their professional, public, and international communities through hands-on learning. Oregon Tech has a full-service, residential campus in Klamath Falls and an urban, industry-focused campus in Wilsonville. Visit www.oit.edu to learn more about Oregon Institute of Technology.

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