University of Galway looks to unearth the potential of geothermal heat

7 Oct 2022

From left: Geofit coordinator Thomas Messervey, project manager Luis M Blanes, University of Galway president Prof Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, assistant professor Dr Marcus M Keane, head of building services, energy and utilities Michael Curran and assistant professor Dr Tiernan Henry. Image: Aengus McMahon

Researchers will gather data on the performance of a new geothermal heat pump system while helping to decarbonise the university campus.

The University of Galway is investing in a geothermal project to bring renewable heat to its campus swimming pool.

This involves the installation of a geothermal heat pump system. It is being developed and operated as a pilot in the EU Horizon 2020 project Geofit, which is supporting innovative ideas to enhance ground source heat pump technologies in Europe.

The system will extract heat from the ground and feed two heat pumps to generate hot water through an existing network of underground pipes. This water will then be used to warm the university swimming pool in its sports centre.

The University of Galway has ambitious plans to hit a 51pc reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 and to fully decarbonise the campus by 2050.

“Our students were to the fore in pressing the case for sustainability and securing a clean, green and efficient energy source for our sports centre,” said University of Galway president Prof Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh. “Geofit is an important stepping stone on our decarbonisation journey.”

The Geofit project will capture, process and monitor data relating to the performance of the geothermal heat pump system for at least five years. This data capture is possible by utilising a fibre optic system, working in collaboration with Geological Survey Ireland and iCRAG, the Science Foundation Ireland geosciences research centre.

Geofit researchers said the pilot would be an “invaluable asset for the scientific community” in Ireland and Europe, helping understand the long-term performance and potential of ground source energy.

University of Galway head of building services, energy and utilities Michael Curran said the pilot project will be used “as a teaching tool and a research laboratory”.

“This is only a first step of a wider campus decarbonisation plan and an opportunity to monitor different performance data, leading to better decisions for large-scale heat pump applications,” Curran said.

10 things you need to know direct to your inbox every weekday. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of essential sci-tech news.

Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic