"STES is a technology where low-cost or waste energy, heat or cold, is harvested when it is produced or when it is available, stored in the subsurface using borehole heat exchangers or water wells, and then used when the heat or cold is expensive or difficult to obtain," said Molz, an emeritus professor in the department. "This method of heating and cooling is far more efficient than conventional HVAC systems, and it could be 15 percent to 30 percent more efficient than current geothermal heat pump systems."
That could be a boon to the Department of Defense, which the engineers said spends about $3.5 billion a year at its bases on energy, much of which goes to heat and cool buildings.
"This technology could be widely applicable to buildings at Defense Department and other government facilities, particularly those in the northern two-thirds of the United States," Falta said. "We believe this technology could be applied at all scales, ranging from a single-family home up to a large manufacturing building."
Geothermal heat-pump projects are gaining popularity in energy-conscious Europe, North America and Japan. The Clemson engineers point to statistics that show the number of such heating and cooling systems has been growing at a rate of about 10 percent a year for the past decade.
The focal point of this four-year research project, sponsored by the Defense Department's Environmental Security and Testing Program, will be an existing building of roughly 20,000 square feet. The engineers will retrofit an existing building's heating and cooling system rather than creating one from scratch to prove that the project can be used in a wide variety of settings.
They will measure temperatures and energy use before and after the Subsurface Thermal Energy Storage installation and fine-tune the process over time.
"If the project, compared to the best current ground-coupled heat-pump technology, achieves a minimum of a 15
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