New geothermal energy trial kicks off at Blacktown Greenfield estate

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Climate-KIC Australia is set to commence a three-year longitudinal study into the benefits of geothermal energy in the residential sector and greenfield estates.

The $1.7 million project, which is being supported by ARENA, will study a commercial-scale demonstration of renewable ground-source heat pumps being deployed in the Fairwater master-planned residential community in Blacktown, Western Sydney.

The project team, to be led by Associate Professor Leena Thomas from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), also includes researchers from the Curtin University, Wattwatchers and the Green Building Council of Australia, with each entity providing $180,000 in funding.

Additionally, the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, and the developer of Fairwater, Frasers Property Australia, will provide in-kind support over the duration of the project.

As part of the project – which is based on the living laboratories concept of using existing buildings to evaluate performance of energy efficiency and sustainability initiatives – geothermal heat pump systems will supply heating and cooling to each of the over 800 new dwellings in the Fairwater precinct.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the project aims to demonstrate the potential of using geothermal energy to power households.

“Ground sourced thermal energy being installed in new housing estates could reduce energy consumption and cost as well as benefiting the network by lowering peak demand and the associated need to invest in expensive infrastructure,” Mr Miller said.

“If successful, this study could help demonstrate the value of geothermal energy to greenfield developers, potentially seeing further housing developments implement this renewable technology.”

Professor Thomas said the Fairwater Living Laboratory will include ‘detailed energy and environmental monitoring, community engagement, and feedback from residents about their everyday experience of the homes and the precinct’.

“The research will deliver a better understanding of the opportunities and barriers for wider adoption of the innovative geothermal heat pumps and other sustainable design features included at Fairwater,” she continued.

“Additionally, the living laboratory offers a unique opportunity for our cross disciplinary team of experts from architecture and building to science, health and sustainable futures, to evaluate how this six star Green Star precinct performs in terms of sustainability, resilience, commerciality, health and wellbeing.”

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