NREL’s online tool to assess viability of geothermal heat pumps


The US Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) announced it has upgraded its REopt web tool, which is designed to evaluate the economic viability of distributed PV, wind, battery storage, combined heat and power (CHP), and thermal energy storage.

The application now offers the possibility of evaluating the viability of ground-source heat pumps, which are also known as geothermal heat pumps. These systems use shallow-ground energy to achieve space heating and cooling and are able to transfer heat to and from the ground.

“Through the REopt web tool, users can now simulate the impact that converting conventional heating and cooling systems to geothermal heat pumps (GHPs) may have on on-site consumption of fuels and electricity, utility costs, and CO2 emissions,” the research institute said. “Additionally, users can leverage REopt’s existing distributed energy resource models to study the impact and interaction of a GHP retrofit with solar photovoltaics, batteries, combined heat and power, and other technologies.”

The REopt online tool

Image: NREL

According to NREL, the web tool models consider the amount of energy needed for cooling and heating, electricity and fuel costs, and specific climate and geotechnical conditions, among other factors.

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“The REopt web tool models each of these variables and site priorities – and how they all interact – to enable facility owners, technology vendors, and policymakers to identify site-specific needs and opportunities,” it said.

Researchers from Lappeenranta-Lahti University of Technology (LUT) recently outlined a series of control methods for domestic hot water (DHW) heating produced by a ground-source heat pump, in combination with a rooftop PV system, in Nordic climates.

A lack of proper business models, high upfront costs and long payback periods are the key barriers to enabling the wider adoption of solar-powered heat pumps, according to another recent report. Other factors reducing market acceptance are a lack of information on the technology and socio-demographic factors such as public perception and peer effects.

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