Energy geostructures are becoming increasingly popular with Developers looking to reduce CO2 emissions and lower system running costs. Energy geostructures are geotechnical structures that:
a) provide structural stability; and
b) act as a heat exchanger with the ground, enabling the supported buildings and/or infrastructure to be heated and cooled using the principle of low enthalpy geothermal systems.
The main advantage of this innovative technology with respect to standard geothermal plant is the reduction of the initial installation costs and construction schedule benefits, compared to installing conventional geothermal solutions, largely due to the additional use of structures which would be constructed in any case. However, energy geostructures’ additional aspects need careful consideration. For this very reason, several research studies have been carried out over the last decade on this subject and a number of real case studies have been monitored and analysed.
The key difference with respect to conventional shallow geothermal systems are mainly related to the geometry, which is imposed by the geotechnical project, and the need to ensure that the primary structural role is always guaranteed. Special boundary conditions, the reduced depth, the influence of atmospheric external temperature can also play an important role for energy geostructures. They can affect both energy efficiency and geotechnical behaviour because of the possible thermal induced mechanical effects.
This paper presents a picture of the current situation regarding energy geostructures and their peculiar features, and collects available data to provide a reference framework. Data has been collected from literature and personal communications and then processed to provide easy-to-read charts useful for practical consultation at a glance. This paper provides an indication of the distribution of such systems worldwide, their spread in time, and a global view of their actual efficiency from structural, energy, economic and environmental perspectives.
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