Home » University of Galway pilots geothermal heat pump

University of Galway pilots geothermal heat pump

by Maryam Bint-Kazam
Geothermal Power House With Solar Panels, Geothermal Heating, Alternative Geothermal energy, Under Floor Heating Systems

University of Galway has embarked on a geothermal heat pump project on campus to heat the swimming pool in the Sports Centre.

The University campus is already part of Galway’s decarbonisation zone, which is aggressively targeting a 51% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 and to decarbonise the campus by 2050. 

The ground source heat pump system is being developed and operated as a pilot in the European Union Horizon 2020 project GEOFIT, which is devoted to the adoption of innovative technologies to support and enhance ground source heat pump technologies in Europe. 

Site works commenced in September 2022 on the lawn in front of the Alice Perry Engineering Building with 18 boreholes for a thermal network of underground pipes as part of a dual source ground-air heat pump system.

GEOFIT will extract heat from the ground and feed two heat pumps to generate hot water which will be carried through an existing district heating network of underground pipes to warm the University swimming pool in the Sports Centre.

Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, president of University of Galway, said: “With this investment, University of Galway is demonstrating that our values of sustainability and excellence are embedded not only in our research and education but also in how we operate as a campus.

“Our students were to the fore in pressing the case for sustainability and securing a clean, green and efficient energy source for our Sports Centre. GEOFIT is an important stepping stone on our decarbonisation journey.” 

Left to right: Thomas Messervey, R2M Solutions, GEOFIT coordinator; Luis M. Blanes, University of Galway GEOFIT Project Manager; Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, President of University of Galway; Assistant Professor Dr Marcus M. Keane, College of Science and Engineering; Michael Curran, Head of Building Services, Energy and Utilities, University of Galway; and Dr Tiernan Henry, Assistant Professor on Hydrogeology, School of Natural Sciences. Credit – Aengus McMahon

Assistant Professor Marcus Keane and his colleague Luis Blanes, University of Galway GEOFIT Research manager, School of Engineering and Built Environment and Smart Cities Research Cluster lead in the Ryan Institute, said: “The GEOFIT pilot will provide an invaluable asset for the scientific community in Ireland and Europe.

“Like never before, we will be able to understand the long term performance and potential of ground source energy and plan how much energy we can harness from natural and renewable sources that include the ground and ambient air.”

The GEOFIT project will capture, process and monitor data relating to the performance of the geothermal heat pump system for at least 5 years, utilising an advanced, innovative Fibre Optic Distributed Temperature Sensing System in collaboration with Ireland’s Geological Survey Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland’s iCRAG Geosciences Research Centre.

The technology innovation and research data in University of Galway’s GEOFIT project will provide future management capability to extensively monitor, manage and maintain the renewable geothermal resource field over the next 25 years.

The findings will help the University, as well as other operators of public buildings, to determine the feasibility and scalability of ground source heat pumps and other complementary solutions such as district heating and novel heat storage technologies.

Michael Curran, head of Building Services, Energy and Utilities, University of Galway, said: “This is not about just changing boilers with heat pumps – we will use this pilot as a teaching tool and a research laboratory.

“This is only a first step of a wider campus decarbonisation plan and an opportunity to monitor different performance data, leading to better decisions for large scale heat pump applications.”

In addition to the GEOFIT project, the University has already invested in heat pump project to retrofit Áras de Brún building which is funded by Energy Efficiency and Decarbonisation Pathfinder Programme, supported by Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications, Higher Education Authority and Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.

It will provide equally extensive monitoring of heat pump performance over time and indoor air quality.

Image: Costazzurra/Shutterstock

Read next: Mace to build ‘London’s most sustainable tower’

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