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Yolanda Howard
Structural engineer
Asked a question 2 years ago

During the winter, how is geothermal energy used to keep roads and pavements from freezing?

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Mike Rhodes
Land and property valuer and auctioneer

The use of renewable and free geothermal heat for winter maintenance, snow melting, and de-icing "from the bottom" is an obvious answer. 

Outside geothermally heated surfaces are typically heated via hydronic heat exchangers embedded in the pavement. The weather and the system specs determine the installed heating capacity. Snow melting necessitates higher system temperatures than simply preventing the creation of ice. Low system temperatures necessitate anticipatory control.

Several system designs are appropriate: 

  • Direct usage of geothermal hot water is possible (generally bound to special geothermal conditions)
  • Use of warm or cold groundwater directly 
  • Borehole heat exchangers, sometimes known as energy stacks, are presently in use. 
  • It's possible to use a heat pump in conjunction with this system. 
  • UTES (underground thermal energy storage) is a viable option. 

A conceptual system design considers all-important heat sources in the vicinity of the intended road heating, such as natural hot water, groundwater, and closed-circuit systems (borehole heat exchangers, energy piles, geostructures, etc.). The heat source utilized determines the projected supply temperature of the heating system. It can optimize the supply temperature with/without the heat pump, the depth of the heating tubes in the pavement, the length of each line, the distance between pipes, and other variables all impact each other and. The heat source and the heat distribution must function together.