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All buildings interact with the ground for its ability to support their foundations. However, very few buildings interact with the ground for its ability to provide thermal energy storage. We have all experienced the moderate temperatures within a cave at depths of just a few metres. These temperatures are a function of average annual air temperature and are the result of the ground absorbing and storing solar energy. The use of this indirect and renewable solar energy can provide significant energy savings for heating and cooling systems.
A Ground Heat Exchanger (GHX) provides the ability to utilise the ground for thermal energy storage, essentially transforming the ground into a thermal battery. It enables us to extract heat from it in winter (heat source) and return that heat in summer (heat sink). It is a dynamic thermal battery that operates both simultaneously and over the annual heating / cooling cycle.
This presentation will provide an overview of how the ground is being utilised for its thermal energy storage capabilities around the world, with focus on a local installation at the Tumut Council owned Riverina Highlands Building, located in Tumut NSW. The installation has provided Council with energy savings on heating and cooling of 80 %, reduced peak energy loads by 40%, reduced maintenance costs and, importantly, provided significantly higher levels of occupant comfort. This has also increased the capacity and effectiveness of the concurrently installed solar PV array and will ensure that future solar energy storage will have greater impact.