Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Positive Side of Surface Parking

With all the buzz about geothermal recently, I thought it might be interesting to share a cool product that uses geothermal techniques paired with the low albedo of asphalt. This product came to my attention via the Washington Post Express - it’s called “Road Energy Systems” and it works similarly to an under floor heating system found in homes.

The system includes a series of pipes (or other water-bearing media) in or immediately under asphalt that pipe water through the road/parking lot/runway/whatever and transfer the heat to an underground aquifer. The heat of the water can then be used to heat buildings in the winter. Conversely, the system can be used to store cool water during the winter to be used for building cooling in the summer (separate storage required, of course).

This type of system can dramatically reduce energy usage. Invisible Heating Systems indicates that 33 SM (355 SF) can power 100 SM (1075 SF) of a home. This means that 1 airport runway could heat approximately 2,500 homes.

Ooms Nederland Holding’s system is expected to cut heating and cooling costs by 50% over conventional methods, with the added benefit that surfaces with this system will need less de-icing than standard.

According to some quick research, this is not a “new” system – the first installation was completed in 2000 in the Netherlands. Other applications have been completed in the UK. I haven’t run across any US applications, but if someone knows of any, please comment.

Having some experience with burning my feet in the summer and running over reptiles using the pavement for sun, I think the ideas behind this technology are fabulous. Just think of the opportunities beneath the acres and acres of surface parking lots supporting offices around the US!

For other posts on this subject, visit TreeHugger or Talk of the Town.


Kevin said...

This is a very exciting use of technology. With how under-utilized solar energy is currently, I can only imagine the avenues this project can open!!

Anonymous said...

The idea of using pavement as a solar collector for "heating and cooling" is a great idea...however, storing all of that "collected" energy could require a large basin...and should the inevitable occur...looking for the small leak in the pavement where glycol is oozing into the earth's outer crust may make it less than desirable. Still a cool intriguing article!

Water Lion said...

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