A building with a well designed GCHP system uses about 60% to 70% less energy for heating, cooling and domestic hot water than the same building built with a conventional fossil fuel heating system and a conventional air cooled chiller. If the system integrates other renewable technologies and thermal energy storage, energy use can be reduced even more. With concerns about climate change (whether it's real or not), more building owners and developers are making changes to the way their buildings are designed.
In over 3 decades working in this industry I've had two clients who have not been directly concerned about the return on the investment needed to install a GCHP system. One was an association of roofing contractors...they were mostly concerned about installing equipment on the roof of their new building than the cost of the GHX. The other was an association of rural municipalities who simply wanted to make a statement about "how green they were". Virtually everyone considering a GCHP system asks two questions:
We had an interesting discussion about how the design of a GCHP system compares to the design of a GCHP system in the Certified GeoExchange Designer (CGD) class in the IGSHPA classes in Stillwater this week. The question about why the design of a photo-voltaic cell system could be so easily standardized, while the design of a GCHP system is so site specific and is difficult to standardize. We came up with a few reasons that the design process is more onerous for a GCHP system.
During the last number of years, Manitoba Hydro, a government owned utility, has been proposing the construction of a number of large hydro-electric dams. Wuskwatim was completed in 2012 at a cost of $1.3 billion, produces 200 mW of power. Keeyask will cost $6.95 billion, will produce 695 mW at peak power and 4,400 gWh annually, and is slated for completion in 2019. Conawapa is larger. It is projected to cost $10.2 billion. will produce 1,485 mW at peak power, 7,000 gWh annually and is to be completed by 2025. To get the power to where it is needed, the 1,384 km Bipole III is to be built at a cost of about $3.8 billion. Total projected cost: over $22 billion...a cost of about $9,250 per kW, or $9.25 per W
I've spent the last couple of weeks in Australia. Probably the biggest reason I'm here is the increase in the cost of electricity in Australia in recent years. Since 2007, the price of electricity has increased more in Australia than most other places. The main reasons for the increase include increased use of household appliances (air conditioning, entertainment), capital cost expenditures to improve distribution grid, and the addition of a 9% carbon tax. How can the GCHP industry help?
Walmart stores recently built their first new store built with 100% LED lighting in South Euclid, OH. In addition to the LED lighting, lighting controls use sensors to take greater advantage of daylighting in the store and daylight harvesting to reduce energy use for lighting by a further 25%. In addition to the lighting changes, the store boasts a white membrane roof to reduce solar heat absorption. These measures, combined with efficient air conditioning systems make it one of their most efficient stores. These measures help make the integration of a GCHP system even easier.
The geothermal industry has not been very good at promoting the industry...certainly they haven't done as well as the solar PV or wind industries. Large investment funds have invested millions of dollars to build wind farms and solar PV farms. The only way many of these investments can actually provide a decent return on the investment is because of subsidies and incentives from the government. There are a couple of problems the geothermal heat pump industry has:
Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute has long advocated the concept of "negawatts". For some reason many people have difficulty equating reduced energy consumption as having the same value to a utility as generating new energy... especially the people running the utilities. Think about it. If you reduce electricity in your home by religiously turning off lights that don't need to be on and reduce your energy consumption by 1,000 kWh this month, those 1,000 kWh can be sold to another consumer. Is that any different to the utility than building a generator to produce 100 kWh to sell to that other consumer? Actually, it is....
Energy modeling is usually considered time consuming and it's tedious. One of the primary reasons it's done at all in many architectural and mechanical engineering offices is simply to comply with LEED, the building code or various incentives. All too often the person tasked with developing the energy model is the least junior technician or engineer in training in the office...the person with the least experience about buildings and systems, and how they can impact the energy loads. Energy modeling, when used as the design tool...
Marketing ground coupled heat pump (GCHP) technology is more challenging than marketing other renewable energy technologies such as wind, solar PV, solar thermal, hydro-electric dams and biomass. You can walk past 100 buildings, or even past a whole shopping mall that reduces total energy consumption by 40%, 50% and even 60% and there's nothing that would indicate that it's there. At best you might get a hint that it's different if...
In my blog I'll be expressing my opinions about what I've the learned about ground coupled heat pump (GCHP) systems over the last 30 years. I've been very fortunate to work with many interesting people who are passionate about this technology...engineers, geologists, mechanical contractors, drillers, excavation contractors...in different parts of the world. I've learned a lot from them and will be using this forum to pass on some of the things I've learned and feel are important. Please feel free to use this information if you feel it's worthwhile...hopefully you can avoid some of the same mistakes I've learned from.