Belgian developer starts digging hole for geothermal heat pumps in Bruges

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Steenoven has started digging a borehole for thermal energy storage, with a depth of 150 meters, in the historic city of Bruges, Belgium. With the help of an undisclosed company, it is drilling 120 wells into the ground to install 36 kilometers of pipes that will feed geothermal energy into heat pumps for a district heating heat system.

The individual geothermal heat pumps will provide heating, cooling, and domestic hot water to residents of the Boevrie residential project, which is located in the UNESCO-protected historic center of Bruges. The development will span 11,700 square meters and will include 102 apartments, 25 single-family homes, eight stacked homes, and office space, as well as basements and underground garages.

The geothermal heat pumps were considered an alternative to solar panels in order to reduce electricity bills for residents, as UNESCO rules strictly limit the use of rooftop solar.

“We are doing everything we can to ensure that this residential project fits perfectly within the UNESCO area, with maximum attention to sustainability,” said Steven Langenaken, project manager for Steenoven. “Due to the shape of Boevrie – a large underground parking garage with compact buildings on top – geothermal energy is the most appropriate and most efficient way to provide sustainable heating.”

The geothermal heat pumps will have an average source temperature of 10 C to 12 C, according to Steenoven. Their heating output will be 40 C for underfloor heating and 60 C for domestic hot water.

“In the summer, the pipe network of the underfloor heating ensures that cool water circulates and the apartments and houses are passively cooled,” said Steenoven.

Digging the borehole thermal energy storage field requires a “high investment,” Steenoven said. It added that the project’s payback period has shrunk to about 10 years since electricity prices skyrocketed due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Drilling works started in the second half of February and are expected to take two months. The first residents are expected to start making use of the geothermal heat pumps by the end of 2026.

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