In this episode, we talk to Tony Amis, MSc, the Senior Vice President at Endurant Energy (formerly GI Energy), and a recognized expert in multirenewable solutions involving energy foundations and ground-source heating and cooling solutions. We discuss energy piles, and more specifically, ground-sourced heating and cooling solutions.
Here Are Some of the Questions We Ask Tony:
- How do energy foundation solutions differ from conventional geothermal solutions?
- What are the hurdles preventing this type of solution from being a standard part of the foundation solution?
- You have been heavily involved with raising opportunities associated with renewable energy solutions. One of them is the use of heat pumps connected to geothermal loops that enable a heating and cooling solution that is four to six times more energy-efficient than conventional heating and cooling solutions. Could you please talk to us more about this?
- From a design standpoint, do energy piles have an impact on how the foundation is designed?
- What do you think the future holds for geotechnical engineering?
Here Are Some of the Key Points Discussed About the Benefits of Using Energy Piles in Geotechnical Engineering:
- Geothermal means to exchange heat with the ground by placing geothermal loops into the ground. Once you go deeper than approximately 10 feet into the ground, the earth’s temperature is between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The goal is to exchange around 10 degrees with the ground. It is done by circulating cooler liquid through the geothermal loops into the ground, where it is warmed up by the earth’s temperature. The warmer liquid passes through a refrigeration cycle, which warms the liquid refrigerants up to their boiling point. The liquid refrigerants are compressed and converted into vapor. This method transforms the lower grade heat up to approximately 130 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, which is delivered into the building. In summer, this cycle is reversed to provide cooling into the building. It is a very efficient method of heating and cooling.
- The main component of this method is the recycling of heat energy. Instead of having an evaporative cooler on the roof that wastes enormous amounts of water, use the extra heat to heat water for the residents.
- Geothermal loops can be placed in many ways and areas. One of the best ways to place geothermal loops is to work with the foundation contractor and place the loops on the building foundation’s reinforcement during the installation of the foundations. A good depth for energy piles is around 60 to 80 feet. A diameter of 6 to 8 inches is the smallest pile that you will need, and some as large as 8 to 9 feet can be used. The larger the diameter of the energy pile, the more geothermal loops are needed. This method is very versatile and can be used on almost any foundation method. If you get the coordination right on an energy foundation solution, there should be no impact on the construction schedule.
- Some of the biggest hurdles of energy foundations are:
- The cost compared to traditional foundations and the low gas prices in some places in the world.
- People who are not familiar with the technology and are very reluctant to change from what they have been doing for many years.
- Discussing an energy solution like geothermal loops can take months to complete.
- There is a big “disconnect” between mechanical and technical engineering.
- Many technical instruments are placed in an energy pile. Some are for measuring the temperature at various depths of the energy pile. There are also monitoring devices that monitor the demands of heating and cooling of the building. Obtaining this energy profile is a crucial part of the design of the geothermal solution. This energy model helps to provide data as to when the building needs more heating or cooling according to the time of day and year. Precise algorithms are used to determine what heating and cooling are needed at a precise moment in time.
- In partnership with Cambridge University, many studies were conducted on the energy piles. From a design standpoint, it was concluded that using energy piles should not have any detrimental effect.
- For the future of geotechnical engineering, there could be a lot of development in the materials that are used. More focus should be put on re-using old foundations when a new building is to be built.
More Details in This Episode…
About Tony Amis, MSc
Tony Amis, MSc, has been a key player within the GI Energy UK organization between 2008 and 2017, and now, Endurant Energy, previously known as GI Energy US, is involved with raising the profile of all ground-sourced heating and cooling systems both in the UK and internationally, and at the same time continuing research into the effects on foundations with Cambridge University, Virginia State University, Boulder University, and Texas A&M University. He actively oversaw over 50 high-profile energy pile projects in the UK.
During 2017/18, he worked with a world-renowned technology client in California on installing one of the largest energy foundation projects in the world at their new Mountain View campus. He has worked with many universities across the U.S., assisting them in their pursuit of achieving a carbon-zero campus. Most notable is Michigan State University, where they provided a high-level review outlining a district energy geothermal solution that will enable them to meet their carbon reduction goals of 60% by 2040.
He is currently involved in a groundbreaking, all-electric office project in New York City that utilizes a ground-sourced solution using energy foundations to deliver 30% of the building’s heating and cooling, with the remainder from an air source heat pump.
Please leave your comments or questions in the section below on the benefits of using energy foundations in geotechnical engineering.
To your success,
Jared M. Green, P.E., D.GE, NOMA
Host of The Geotechnical Engineering Podcast