Team Bios

Problem Defined

Project Management


Project Summary

  We are designing a system for the sustainable production of energy at the Palouse Clearwater Environmental Institute Nature Center.  The design will include a heating and cooling system in the facility’s two primary buildings, as well as a sustainable method of supplying the remainder of the center’s electricity needs.  We also plan to construct a model that demonstrates the fundamentals of sustainable energy production.

Blue ChartConcept Selection

  Through our initial research, we arrived at two viable methods for heat production and, based on our recommended method, three options for interfacing with the buildings.  The two heating methods were solar hot water and geothermal heat pump systems.  We recommend a geothermal heat pump system primarily due to reliability.  While both options are efficient at concentrating heat, solar hot water depends on a rather constant and unobstructed supply of sunlight, which can be difficult to obtain, especially during the winter when clear skies are infrequent. 


  A geothermal system relies on the warmth of the earth several feet below the surface, which is relatively constant year round. Using this as a heat source minimizes variability and maximizes reliability.  Additionally, during the summer the heat pump can be reversed and behave as a cooling mechanism, eliminating the need for an independent cooling system.  Of the possible geothermal heat pump designs, we recommend a closed loop, horizontal straight pipe system.

decision matrix

  Because heat pumps have the capacity to heat both water and air, we arrived at three feasible retrofit designs.  Radiator and in floor radiant heating utilize heated water, while forced air heating utilizes heated air.  Using a decision matrix with multiple parameters, weighing cost and ease of installation most heavily, we arrived at forced air heating as our recommended option.

  Next semester, following the completion of our heating design, we plan to design a system of sustainable electricity production.  We have identified two feasible methods of electricity production - wind turbines and solar panels - both of which have several design options.  The design will produce all the electricity required by the facility and will use the grid as storage when necessary. This will occur mainly during the summer months when electricity production is expected to exceed demand. During the winter months, electricity will be drawn from the grid when demand exceeds production.  Finally, we will construct a model demonstrating the fundamentals of sustainable energy production, including an educational poster.

  Our geothermal system design will provide reliable and sufficient heat during the winter and air conditioning during the summer.  It utilizes renewable clean energy and, if powered with sustainably produced electricity, can be considered completely clean, renewable, and sustainable, which has the benefits of reducing the institute’s carbon footprint while providing an example for which it can be proud.  Such a progressive project would establish PCEI as being dedicated to the welfare of the environment while encouraging similar action by the community as it strives to educate and improve society.




Energy Usage at Nature Center

Energy Usage

Energy breakdown

Energy Breakdown

Click below for a comprehensive breakdown of the electricity consuming devices at the nature center.
Electrical Devices