Ont. college offers dedicated geothermal program

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Geothermal students will finish the program at the Sutherland campus. The Kawartha Trades and Technology Centre will be where they will be spending most of their second semester. Neil Maika, coordinator of the mechanical techniques – plumbing program, and Jason Jackson, showcase the many trades that work within this space.

By Leah Den Hartogh

An Ontario trade college is offering a dedicated post-secondary geothermal heating program, believed to be the first of its kind in North America.

The course, at Fleming College in Peterborough, Ont., begins in January and is already full, with a waiting list for future courses.

The one-year program is split between Fleming’s Sutherland Campus in Peterborough and Frost Campus in Lindsay, Ont. The first semester, at Lindsay, focuses on geothermal borehole, regulations and the knowledge required to install, maintain, and repair geothermal loops. From there, students move to the Peterborough campus where they will learn to design, maintain and repair the hydronic systems within a building, and connect that system to the geothermal loop field.

New equipment was required for the students of the geothermal program. Steve Wilkinson, faculty member for the resources drilling technician program, can be seen standing beside some of the newly acquired equipment at the Frost campus.

The program will focus on hands-on construction. “One of the unique features of this program and the other programs at Fleming College is that we try to incorporate the students in the design and the installation of components where required,” explained Jason Jackson, academic chair of the Fleming College School of Trades and Technology.

Part of the program will include designing and constructing a geothermal system for the “farmhouse” located at the Sutherland campus. “The geothermal fields located at Frost Campus will allow students to design and construct the wells by using hands-on applications in combination with practical and theoretical concepts in an online platform.”

Focus on residential

Although students will gain an understanding of commercial and institutional applications, the program will focus primarily on residential installations. Class sizes will remain small with 30 students to ensure adequate time with instructors.

The program has been talked about at Fleming College for a long while and received a big push last year. “Now, as we (society and government) look at reducing carbon footprints and looking at our energy consumption, we have come to a place where alternate energy options are required. The program concept was created through a collaboration between campuses and industry experts. The idea once defined moved quickly to a business case and then to approval quickly,” said Jackson.

Part of the program will require students to learn about the design, installation, maintenance and repair of hydronic systems within a building and connecting the system to the loop field.

Much of the equipment and facilities required for the program fit nicely with current programs, including the resources drilling technician program offered at Frost campus.

The Kawartha Trades and Technology Centre in Peterborough encompasses many trades programs. The KUBE, a four-storey training structure features a unique training environment utilizing the latest technologies found in the trades.

The equipment that the college didn’t already have was either bought with a capital budget or donated by companies in the industry, including members of the Canadian Institute of Plumbing and Heating (CIPH), Ontario Geothermal Association, and the Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI).

A clean energy alternative

“We are constantly looking for new ways in clean energy. Geothermal is unique because we have energy sitting around us all the time that we don’t really consider or use. Geothermal or hydronics is just about taking heat from one place and putting it somewhere else. We have the ability to use something very unique in Canada to help gain needed energy. The impact of that is we are trying to find ways that have zero-emission or reduce our footprint on the environment. This is one way to provide that,” said Jackson.

A second hands-on facility is available at the Sutherland campus for students to learn the HVAC side of the trade.

The final goal of the program is the have a graduate that is well-rounded in all aspects of geothermal heating and cooling installation. Graduates will receive a graduate certificate at the end of the two semesters.

Anyone looking to apply for future academic years can do so on the Fleming website. The minimum admission requirement is an undergraduate degree or Ontario college diploma in a related field. For more information, please visit www.flemingcollege.ca/programs/geothermal-systems.

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