Living Lab

Clean Energy Campus as a Living Lab 

Berkeley's new clean energy system presents a unique opportunity for students, faculty, and other researchers to both contribute and advance their knowledge in renewable energy, project finance, and other fields. The initiative invites stakeholder engagement in the system design and continued discovery during the entire lifespan its operations. The intention of this living lab is to build mutually beneficial project partnerships between the energy operations enterprise and the research and teaching enterprise that represents the core of Berkeley's mission.

Geothermal as part of Berkeley's clean energy future

The Project

The Role of the Underground to Realize a Zero-carbon UC Campus Energy System

Timeline: August 2021 - April 2023

See the research findings.


Understand the feasibility of combined underground heat/cold storage and heat pump technology as part of the campus energy system strategy. 

Advance understanding of the potential of geothermal power as a climate and energy solution at the district scale.


The project involves drilling a 400-foot-deep borehole in the northwest corner of campus and conducting various thermal response tests. The results will be used as inputs to an energy simulator that combines underground thermo-hydro model and district heating/cooling model. The engineering team will assess the feasibility of 4th and 5th generation district heating/cooling systems with underground heat/cold storage to reduce heating/cooling costs. If this indeed proves to be feasible, then geothermal storage can meaningfully contribute to campus’s efforts to achieve a zero carbon target. 

Student and Campus Learning 

Funded by The Green Initiative Fund, the geothermal borehole project was used in an undergraduate class offered in Fall 2021. The project will also inform broader geothermal research being conducted by Berkeley and LBNL: faculty and researchers are testing the value of underground heat/cold storage for the campus energy system. Cameras were set up to publicly display the drilling and testing operations, and to offer an on-line Q&A with the research team. Distributed fiber optic temperature and acoustic sensors were installed to monitor the seasonal changes of ground temperature and to conduct seismic surveys. These surveys inform campus underground geology map development. The project integrated paid student fellowships. 


Led by Kenichi Soga, Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in partnership with Facilities Services, the Office of Sustainability and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Berkeley Clean Energy Campus Outcomes

The Berkeley Clean Energy Campus project is studying feasibility and will install a geothermal heat exchange system at the plant location.

Providing electric load flexibility & reliability at Berkeley

Project Concept: CalConnect  

CalConnect utilizes advanced controls to monitor energy usage and output of buildings, solar panel arrays and an EV charging station. This approach improves building control options, provides electric load flexibility, and ensures power reliability. Such resilience is a key optimization element of the new clean energy system.

Learning Opportunities 

California Institute for Energy and Environment/CITRIS, in partnership with campus Facilities Services and the Office of Sustainability, will lead the CalConnect initiative. Project outcomes will include the release of open-source software for public use plus market transfer activities. 

Berkeley Clean Energy Campus Outcomes 

The team has submitted a Department of Energy grant to fund an expansion of the CalConnect concept and to fund additional advanced building control systems in a number of campus buildings.

Can Berkeley go "geothermal"?

Why is UC Berkeley is drilling a 400-foot deep borehole on the north side of campus? Engineers are determining the feasibility of using a geothermal heat pump system as part of the Clean Energy Campus plan to decarbonize campus. (Video by Roxanne Makasdjian, Alan Toth and Adam Lau, Berkeley News.)