Alinta looks to combine solar and geothermal for new housing estates

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Alinta Energy says distributed geothermal could provide heating and cooling needs for new housing estates, and combined with solar need not be connected to grid.

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One Step Off The Grid

Alinta Energy says it is looking at powering new suburban developments with a mixture of solar power and “distributed” geothermal energy, drilling 50 metres below the ground to provide heating and cooling needs for the homes in the district.

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The technology will act as a sort of giant heat pump, it says, and the combination of solar on the rooftop and geothermal under the ground could provide all of the suburb’s power needs, although it is likely that initial projects at least will stay on the grid “for the comfort” of households.

The plans were briefly foreshadowed by Alinta CEO Jeff Dimery at the Energy Disruption conference in Sydney hosted by RenewEconomy this week.

Dimery says he believes it will be the first time that the technology will be used this way in Australia at residential level for heating and cooling (although it should be pointed out that the town of Birdsville in Queensland uses geothermal energy for electricity, and has done for some time, and many homes have individual heat pumps).

Dimery’s vision is to target new sub divisions, initially in New South Wales, where Alinta would drill a hole about 50m deep, insert a sleeve, a two-way return pipe and put a heat pump at the outlet which would generate heat and cooling for the homes.

He’s coy about the exact details, and the location, one because Alinta is in the midst of an IPO process and also because the idea requires the purchase of a company that is not yet complete.

“It will makes a big difference for homes, and their heating and cooling, because it reduces the energy requirement for  household by up to 50 per cent,” Dimery says.

“Initially, the customers will want to stay connected, but they might not need to with solar panels on the roof and geothermal in the ground”, and some battery storage.

Alinta has been selling a solar product through a financing option with ANZ Bank and plans to introduce that to eastern states soon. “We want to be seen as an energy company rather than a gas company,” he said, noting the company is looking to get a 25 per cent market share of solar in W.A.

Alinta also offers a battery storage solution.

Dimery says the company is not pushing the hybrid solution to consumers, waiting for the offer to be “economic.” But “when it’s at the crossover point we will be very keen to push it.” When told that new research suggests that crossover point could be next year, he said:  “Great.”

This article was originally published on RE sister site One Step Off The Grid. To sign up for the weekly newsletter, click here.

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3 Comments
  1. Ian 3 years ago

    ground source heat pumps is what is ment in the article by the term geothermal heating. This does not have a distinct economic advantage in warmer climates and seems to only come into its own at very low ambient air temperatures . One has to wonder if Alinta’s offer is not a cynical attempt to tie in the housing estate to their air-conditioning product.

    Passiv Haus principles can reduce heating and cooling costs considerably. These are basically 1. Maximise insulation. 2. Reduce unwanted movement of air between outside and inside. 3. Minimise unwanted ingress of solar light and heat radiation during the hotter months and maximise this during the cold winter months. These principles are best considered in the design stage of the house. Reducing window areas on the east and west of the house, using awnings and patios to shade the north facing windows in the Summer when the sun is naturally high in the midday sky and out the way when the winter sun is lower on the horizon. Using double and triple glazing in colder areas and plenty of insulation in walls, ceilings, roofs, and floors.

    A well designed house may not need any more heat than that given off by TV’s, computers, kettles, ovens, refrigerators or even people in the house.

  2. Tim Forcey 3 years ago

    Re “many homes have individual heat pumps”, well if we are talking about Australia, probably MILLIONS of homes have heat pumps that can be used for space heating. They are known as “air-source heat pumps” or “reverse-cycle air conditioners”.

    If you have a reverse-cycle air con but have never used it for heating, give it a go. It may be far and away the cheapest way to heat your home.
    See: https://reneweconomy.com.au/2015/the-cheapest-way-to-heat-your-home-with-renewable-energy-just-flick-a-switch-92274

    Yes as Ian says below, what this article seems to be talking about are “ground-source heat pumps” which can be overkill/less economic in Australian climate zones versus just a good (high star rating) reverse-cycle air con.
    See: https://theconversation.com/hot-summer-nights-and-cold-winter-evenings-how-to-be-comfortable-and-save-money-all-year-long-51046

  3. Tim Forcey 3 years ago

    A presentation on using air-source heat pumps for space heating in Australia here:
    http://www.ata.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/20151222-Vic-Preso.pdf

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