Image courtesy of PhillipC
While most solar enthusiasts are busy focusing on building ever larger thin-film solar farms or ever more advanced concept solar cells, others have been relying on older, though no less innovative, technologies to supply households for years now. Ooms Avenhorn Holding BV, a Dutch civil engineering company, first conceived its Road Energy System 10 years ago; back then, a technology that aimed to siphon heat from roads and parking lots to heat offices and homes probably sounded a bit eccentric, if not outlandish.
Ten years on - with climate change and renewable energies featuring much in the news and in policy discussions - their once long-shot bet is looking like a shrewd one. Their thermal energy system, which collects solar energy from a 200-yard stretch of road and a parking lot, powers a 70-unit 4-story apartment complex in the small village of Avenhorn; the heat stored from 36,000 sq ft of pavement during the summer helps keep a 160,000 sq ft-industrial park warm in the winter.Originally a system erected to reduce road maintenance costs, Ooms' technology consists of a network of flexible pipes held in place by a grid and covered over by asphalt - which helps magnify solar heat. Heated water coursing through the pipes is pumped deep underground into aquifers; it can then be retrieved, even months later, to keep the road ice-free during the winter. Alternatively, the system can pump cold water from a separate reservoir to cool homes or office buildings in the summer.
Though the water typically isn't hot enough on its own - it must first go through an electricity-powered heat pump - and the installation cost is about twice that of a conventional gas heating system, the energy required is only about half of what would otherwise be needed. That not only means lower heating bills but, perhaps more crucially, 50% less carbon emissions.
Via ::Associated Press: New Energy Uses for Asphalt (news website)