District Geothermal Study

Growing Interest in District Geothermal Systems

A private utility company engaged LaBella Associates to perform a scoping and feasibility study evaluating the possibility of building a district geothermal pilot project within four counties in its service territory. Beginning with a high-level overview of major population centers, sites for potential pilot systems were identified and evaluated for technical and economic feasibility.

A short list of potential pilot sites was evaluated in detail, including the development of preliminary ambient temperature loop layouts, modeling of energy performance of the loop and associated buildings, and a life cycle cost analysis was developed outlining major capital costs and ongoing operation and maintenance costs. A 5G ambient temperature loop sourced from a combination of closed-loop borefields, wastewater heat recovery, surface water heat recovery, and an open-loop aquifer system were included in the preliminary designs. Conversion to water-source heat pumps at the building level was required to accommodate the conversion away from traditional natural gas infrastructure.

Impacts of site geology, regulatory and permitting requirements, and barriers to construction were investigated in order to identify a clear plan of action for implementation of the pilot projects.