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University of Virginia Explores Storing Heat in Underground Wells

By District Energy posted 10-19-2022 15:22


UVA Today


Geoexchange is a hole in the ground in which you store heat. Or, in this case, a hole in the Grounds.

UVA’s Energy and Utilities Department is drilling test holes in the ground under Grounds to measure its viability to store hot air.

“Geoexchange is the process of using deep boreholes in the ground to store heat produced in the summer for heating in the winter,” said Paul Zmick, director of energy and utilities. “This is commonly called seasonal storage.

“In order to design geoexchange systems, we require a detailed understanding of the heat capacity and geology for the specific areas being considered for large bore fields.”

To get that information, Zmick and his team are drilling eight test holes, each up to 8 inches in diameter and as deep as 1,000 feet. Six of the wells will be used for thermal testing. Later, workers will insert a tube into each hole and fill the space surrounding the tube with conductive grout. Then they will run hot water down into the tubes for a couple of days to test the heat retention of the soil. 

Zmick said it would take several days to determine if a well had potential for the geoexchange project.

Depending on the soil’s heat-holding capacity, the wells could be spaced closer together or farther apart to optimize the system, Zmick said.

A successful seasonal storage plan will save the University money and reduce its carbon footprint, Zmick said.

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