In regions with colder climates, a large amount of energy is used to heat homes and offices in the winter months and heat from the ground affords a credible alternative to established, fossil fuel based technologies. Office, retail spaces and underground transportation systems also need cooling for comfort and safety, particularly during the summer months. How can companies reduce the environmental impact and the cost of heating and cooling of their buildings? The answer might be under our feet.
Subject to local and regional subsurface conditions, geothermal energy can be a reliable, renewable and sustainable source of energy for the production of heat and electricity. In general, there are two main categories of geothermal energy: high-temperature technologies, and moderate and low-temperature technologies. The high temperature technologies involve drilling several thousand metres into the ground, where hot water or steam reservoirs heated by the earth’s inner hot magma can be reached. The hot water or steam is then piped to the surface and used in different applications, typically the generation of electricity but increasingly for space heating.
The moderate and low temperature technologies include ground-source heat pump applications (closed loop systems), groundwater where there is an aquifer present (open loop systems) and both closed and open loop configurations can be used for the seasonal storage of cooling and heating energy in both bedrock and soils. WSP has extensive experience in evaluating and analysing alternative energy systems for buildings such as office buildings, industrial buildings, hotels, shopping centres, airports, hospitals and other public facilities.
Geothermal energy solutions have proven to be a very attractive alternative in many cases as they can reduce the cost of externally supplied energy by as much as 65%. In addition to developing new systems from initial conceptual design to handover and commissioning of fully developed systems, we can provide cost-benefit and investment return calculations for this type of project and help clients where applications of this technology have not succeeded.
WSP has considerable expertise in the following geothermal energy applications:
• Storage of cooling and heating energy in aquifers
• Storage of cooling and heating energy in the bedrock
• Ground-source heat pumps (GSHP)
• Energy piles in building foundations, containing a circulating medium
• High-temperature geothermal energy systems