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      MTU students present Calumet proposal to heat buildings with mine water

      Heat exchanger at the Keweenaw Research Center

      Michigan Tech student researchers have spent the semester analyzing the feasibility of using mine water to heat buildings in the village of Calumet through a geothermal energy system.

      With 37 mine shafts holding billions of gallons of water beneath the village of Calumet, the researchers took it upon themselves to see it put to use.

      â??This is a sustainable resource, and we have so many around the area that one possible thing that we could save on is cost, and that seems to be a huge issue around this area,â?? said student researcher, Carrie Karvakko.

      Mine water would be pumped through a heat exchanger, sent through pipelines in buildings, and then sent back to the mine to be used again.

      Currently, Michigan Techâ??s Keweenaw Research Center operates on a $100,000 geothermal energy system that has saved the facility an estimated 30 percent in costs.

      KRC executive director, Jay Meldrum, said the system proves more useful than a standard gas boiler.

      â??The biggest advantage is we have the ability to air condition in the summer, and we have the ability to air condition areas even in the winter that become warmer,â?? said Meldrum.

      The students also spoke with residents of Calumet to gather information about the social implications.

      â??Most of the people that we talked with really felt like the water in the mines is a community resource,â?? explained associate professor, Richelle Winkler. â??It was built off the toil of peoplesâ?? ancestors working in the mine, and so this is something that, really, the community owns it. Itâ??s theirs to do something with or not.â??

      â??We even think that thereâ??s a possibility of some kind of co-op system that could be developed and distribute that water throughout the town and have more of a district heating operation,â?? Meldrum added.

      Meldrum said based on the KRC, the geothermal system could be technically feasible if the village wished to continue with the idea.

      â??This is such a cultural legacy here, the mining, and to actually be able to utilize it, not just for mining but for something else, youâ??re keeping that legacy here,â?? Karvakko added.