Ball State prepares to idle its coal-fired boilers

Ball State University officials are preparing to stop burning coal at the campus steam plant as the school pushes ahead with its partial conversion to geothermal energy.

Ball State engineering director Jim Lowe said the four coal-fired boilers dating to the 1940s on the Muncie campus will be shut down by Thursday. That will bring an end to the school's annual burning of up to 36,000 tons of coal that released sulfur dioxide and other air pollutants.

Ball State is investing $80 million to drill about 3,600 boreholes for a geothermal system that uses deeply buried pipes to tap the Earth's natural capacity to both heat and cool.

The plant's three natural gas-fired boilers will continue to produce steam for heating and hot water for campus buildings.

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