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John Gilbert Architects: Resources: Geothermal Energy

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See Also...
We have now completed two projects which use a geothermal heating system at Lumphinnans in Fife and Shettleston in Glasgow.

Downloads...
Download a new article written by John Gilbert on Heatpumps & Geothermal Energy (196kb PDF).

Download detailed descriptions of projects at Lumphinnans and Shettleston.

Links...
EarthEnergy - GeoScience

Geothermal Heat in Scotland
Briefing for Scottish Parliement

We are members of the AECB (Association of Environmentally Conscious Building), the Scottish Solar Energy Group and the Scottish Ecological Design Association

Geothermal Energy
Our projects in Shettleston and Lumphinnans are UK pioneers in using energy stored in the ground - geothermal energy. It's potential in housing is still untapped.


How does geothermal heating work?

The technology is fairly simple and has been used extensively in Canada & Japan. The prime source of energy is the temperature of underground water, which gains it's heat from the planet's temperature. At a depth of 100 metres the temperature of underground water (in Scotland) is about 12degreesC. This will rise by about 3degreesC every 100 metres of depth.

The warmed water is extracted and passed through a heat pump which takes the useful energy out of it and converts it into a higher temperature, usually about 50degreesC. Whilst this water is not exceptionally hot, it is warm enough to heat well insulated houses.

Geothermal heating at Shettleston, Glasgow

Download this A4 PDF (164k) of how it works in our Lumphinnans project.

Our project at Glenalmond Street in Shettleston uses a combination of solar and geothermal energy to heat 16 houses. We decided on geothermal energy when we discovered that there was a disused coalmine under the site. Working in association with "enconsult" a scheme was developed which uses the preheated water in the flooded coalmine to heat the houses.

The calculation for the SAP rating resulted in a figure of 125 (to round down to 100) which is exceptionally high. The costs for heating and hot water supply over the first year of use averaged at a total of £150 a house per annum.

The system works as follows:
The water in the coalmine, which is 100 metres below ground level, will be at a temperature of about 12degreesC throughout the year. This water is heated by geothermal energy which is largely a result of the solar gain on the surface of the planet. A well hole has been drilled down to the mine and an in-line pump then raises the warmed water, passing it through a heat pump, boosting the temperature to 55degreesC. There are two heat pumps which function at off peak periods to make use of economy 2000 tariff. The warm water is stored in a large, well insulated, thermal storage tank (10,000 litres) and is then distributed to each house providing heating to radiators.

Each flat will has its own room thermostat and timer switch. Low temperature heating is entirely appropriate for well insulated properties, as there is no need for large heat inputs and the risks of scalding by touch are eliminated.

Hot Water Supply
The water in the thermal store is pumped through indirect coils in each hot water cylinder in order to heat the water to about 45degreesC. Although warm water can be taken from the cylinder, we have provided electric immersers so that tenants who require higher temperatures for washing dishes etc., can boost the temperature of water in the cylinder. The energy required to raise water from 45degreesC to 60degreesC is much less than a system which heats water from a cold start. Heating and hot water is paid for through a service charge on the rent.

The advantage in having tenant control over heating the hot water is that expensive metering controls are avoided. Our feedback from tenants suggests that few people require to boost the water heating with their electric immerser.

Solar panels on South facing roof at Shettleston

Linking to solar panels
We have installed an array of water heating solar panels on a South facing roof, pitched at a designed 35degreesC providing a total area of 36m2. The solar panels provide additional heating to the thermal storage tank, mostly during the afternoon when a large part of the tanks heat will have been dissipated. We have found that the solar panels are so effective over the summer and Autumn months that the heat pumps have not had to operate

Saving water
The cooled water from the heat pumps is a by product of the geothermal arrangement. It is at a temperature of about 3degreesC. This cold water is taken into a large storage tank from where it can then feed the WC cisterns in all the houses. Residual water from the geothermal supply needs to be discharged back into the ground at a point below the water table.

Geothermal heating in Lumphinnans, Fife
Using the experience of Shettleston we have incorporated a geothermal heating scheme in an 18 house rehabilitation project at Lumphinnans in Fife. In this location the depth of the coal mine is 170 metres and so the water is warmer at about 14 degrees C. Computer simulation of the energy requirements by enconsult allowed us to reduce the size of the thermal storage tank.

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