Case study - Using thermal storage systems to reduce carbon emissions

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Courtesy of Climate-KIC

Aquifer Thermal Energy Storage (ATES) systems have the potential to provide a significant tool for climate change mitigation. Using aquifers as a source for thermal energy can provide heating and cooling for houses, offices and other buildings E-USE (aq). In comparison to the use of fossil fuels, as well as providing up to 60% CO2 reductions, these systems are also more cost effective.

The climate change issue

Whilst the benefits of using ATES systems in both their cost and energy efficiency are obvious, their widespread application faces a number of barriers. For instance, strict regulations, with fears of increased ground water contamination, currently limit their research across Europe. But also this technology is simply still not well known. Hence, the benefits of using ATES systems are not being fully explored.

The project solution

The main objective is for E-USE to prove the attractiveness and potential impact of utilising large scale ATES. Research has already shown that sustainable and multi-functional use of groundwater resources is possible. This earlier research programme, involving E-USE partners, found that ATES did not appear to stimulate growth of pathogenic micro-organisms and may actually enhance dissolving and degradation of groundwater contaminants. Thus, the programme concluded that existing barriers to implementing ATES systems could be overcome with smart designs, sound monitoring and sensible management.

A number of full scale pilot tests across Europe will be designed in this Pathfinder project in order to be carried out in an Innovation project to follow, thus exploring the potential use of these subterranean thermal resources. The aim is to demonstrate the potential reduction in fossil fuel consumption and GHG emissions.

The barriers preventing ATES systems implementation will be identified so that a wide-scale market of ATES can be introduced. The market will then be assessed for potential ATES implementation (in Italy, Spain, Belgium, Germany and the UK) locating test and demonstration sites. The test sites will be developed as business models and subsequently used to publicise ATES to potential industrial financial partners and prospective clients.

The role of Climate-KIC

Climate-KIC has provided an invaluable network of partners for the project. These partners have shed light on the situation concerning aquifer energy storage in their countries and help to break down the barriers limiting the systems implementation.

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