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Applied Thermal Engineering 27 (2007) 1750–1755

Coupling of geothermal heat pumps with thermal solar collectors

Valentin Trillat-Berdal *, Bernard Souyri, Gilbert Achard
LOCIE – Laboratoire Optimisation de la Conception et Ingénierie de l’Environnement – ESIGEC,
Université de Savoie, Savoie Technolac, 73376 Le Bourget du Lac, France

Received 20 January 2006; accepted 27 July 2006

Available online 26 September 2006


The study discussed relates to the design and development of a process consisting of combining a reversible geothermal heat pump
with thermal solar collectors for building heating and cooling and the production of domestic hot water. The proposed process, called
GEOSOL, has been installed in a 180 m2 private residence in 2004. This installation is the subject of long-term experimental follow-up to
analyse the energy-related behavior of the installation at all times of the year. In addition, different configurations of this combined sys-
tem (geothermal heat pump and thermal solar collectors) have been defined and will be simulated numerically using TRNSYS software.
A comparative analysis of these different alternative versions will be conducted to determine the best configuration(s) of the GEOSOL
process in terms of energy, economical and environmental performances.
Ó 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Ground-coupled heat pump; Borehole heat exchanger; Ground heat depletion; Thermal solar collectors

1. Introduction In this context, Agence De l’Environnement et de la Maı̂t-

rise de l’Energie (French Agency for Energy and the Envi-
In recent years, under the impetus of a number of parties ronment) is contributing to the funding of a research and
(politicians, associations, energy sectors, etc.), the renew- development project proposed by the laboratory LOCIE
able energy market has been growing. However, while in (Laboratoire Optimisation de la Conception et Ingénierie
the public services sector, it can be seen that accounting de l’Environnement – Design optimisation and environmen-
for environmental factors is frequently a proactive act, tal environment engineering laboratory) de l’Ecole Supéri-
motivation levels remain low in the general public. Never- eure d’Ingénieurs de Chambéry de l’université de Savoie
theless, there are energy solutions that are suitable for both (Engineers’College of Chambéry, University of Savoie)
sectors. In this way, the use of incident solar energy via and three industrial partners: CIAT(1), Eco’Alternative(2)
thermal solar collectors and energy stored in the superficial and CLIPSOL(3) which are respectively represented by
layers of the soil (less than one hundred metres deep) via Eric Auzenet (Research Engineer,,
borehole heat exchangers (BHE) offer clear potential in Pierre-Albert Watier, (Director, Pierre.Watier@ecoalterna-
terms of valorization both for private residences or small and Philippe Papillon (Research Engineer,
public buildings due to the suitability of the diffuse nature
of these energies for scattered settlements, and for large
public buildings, provided that the soil surface is com- (1) CIAT – Av. Jean Falconnier, BP 14 01350 Culoz
patible. France
(2) Eco’Alternative – 251, route de la Serraz ZI de la
Corresponding author. Tel.: +33 4 79 75 88 21; fax: +33 4 79 75 81 44.
Plaisse, 73375 Le Bourget du Lac France
E-mail address: (V. Trillat- (3) CLIPSOL – Parc d’Activités Economiques Les Com-
Berdal). baruches 73100 Aix-les-Bains, France

1359-4311/$ - see front matter Ó 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
V. Trillat-Berdal et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 27 (2007) 1750–1755 1751


BHE borehole heat exchanger GCHP ground coupled heat pump

COP coefficient of performance SPF seasonal performance factor
HDPE high-density polyethylene PSD plancher solaire direct (floor heating circuit)

The project set up, known as GEOSOL, consists of thermal solar collectors system which has been the subject
designing a system based on the combination of a geother- of a real site experiment in Lugano since 2000 [3].
mal heat pump and rooftop thermal solar collectors for
optimum valorization of the incident solar energy, and thus 2. Principle of low-temperature geothermics
contribute to improving energy efficiency and reducing the
greenhouse effect in the dwelling. In fact, it should be pos- Low-temperature geothermics are based on the use of
sible to achieve improved energy integration between the the heat contained in the soil via embedded heat exchang-
renewable sources available and residences thermal ers and heat pumps. The heat pumps increase the natural
requirements, while guaranteeing a satisfactory level of temperature of the soil (between 7 and 12 °C in France)
comfort and quality of use under all circumstances. to values of the order of 40 °C. They are generally com-
The geothermal heat pump is used for heating and also bined with low-temperature delivery systems like floor
for cooling a building via low-temperature delivery sys- heating to achieve the ‘‘Coefficient of Performance’’ or
tems. The solar collectors are used to complete the system the COP of more than 3. They can also be reversible (heat-
in three areas: preheating the domestic hot water, heating ing mode or cooling mode) and thus be used for cooling in
dwelling (via a direct solar floor option [1] or via doping the summer.
of the temperature level of the cooling source) and thermal Heat is extracted from the soil by means of closed loop
recharging of the soil during excess solar production peri- systems, which exchange heat with the soil via a fluid
ods. Therefore, it will be possible to recharge the soil in (water–antifreeze mixture) circulating in high-density poly-
the summer with the heat pump in cooling mode and the ethylene (HDPE) tubes. There are two types of exchangers:
solar collectors to maintain a satisfactory long-term perfor- vertical exchangers and horizontal exchangers.
mance coefficient of the system. Our study only relates to BHE (Fig. 1), as it makes it
The coupling of solar collectors to underground can also possible to make use of underground temperature stability
help to reduce the length of borehole [2] which can contrib- which helps maintain a satisfactory COP value, unlike hor-
utes to decrease the cost of the system. izontal exchangers which are embedded at depths between
Renewable energies offer great prospects as demon- 0.80 and 1.50 m, and in which the performances are
strated by the study of another combined heat pump – directly related to local climatic conditions [4–6]. In

to heat


SOIL (ciment bentonite
(ciment bentonitemixture
or sand)
(water anda
(water and antifreeze)

between 0 and
between 10
between 10and
EXCHAN GER consisting
EXCHANGER consistingof

Fig. 1. Schematic of the concept of borehole heat exchanger.

1752 V. Trillat-Berdal et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 27 (2007) 1750–1755

addition, the soil surface area mobilised by BHE’s is very recovery is particularly recommended in the case of high
low compared to horizontal ground heat exchangers. How- concentrations of vertical exchangers on the same plot of
ever, it should be pointed out that the cost of boreholes land [11]. The time to reach a complete thermal recovery
represents the major drawback of the BHE system. depends on how long the BHE has been operational. Prin-
cipally, the recovery period equals nearly the operation
3. Thermal depletion period [10].
We also studied the thermal discharge from the ground
The term ‘‘thermal depletion’’ refers to the decrease in with TRNSYS using type 557 modelling double-U BHE.
the average soil temperature in the vicinity of the BHE (dis- Two BHE’s coupled with a heat pump were simulated with
tance of less than 10 m). This discharge is generated by the following assumptions : heating required 6 months per
extracting heat from the soil. In Europe, the utilization of year, inlet floor temperature and flow rate equal to 30 °C
BHE increases, especially in Germany, Austria and Swit- and 2000 kg/h respectively, heat pump operation 11 h per
zerland. For example, only in Switzerland, more than day and heat extraction from two boreholes 90 m long at
30 000 ground coupling heat pumps (GCHP) using bore- a distance of 10 m. This simulation is relatively simplistic
holes have been installed [7] and an Estimate of Ozgener since it defines an inlet floor temperature equal to 30 °C
[8] indicates that there are over 140 000 GCHP in the throughout the total heating season, but it gives an initial
USA. Nevertheless, the system of geothermal heat pumps indication of ground temperature variations. Fig. 2 shows
is a relatively recent concept, and in spite of a number of that the thermal depletion from the ground is relatively
operational systems already high in some countries, it can rapid during the first years of heat extraction, and then
still be interesting to study the ground temperature decreases at an increasingly slower rate, but never achieves
decrease in the long-term, especially for small systems (little a steady state, even after 20 years of operation. The ground
number of borehole) since they are most widespread, par- temperature difference between the end of the first heating
ticularly for single-family houses. season and after 20 years of operation is of the order of
Our project represents the ideal opportunity to study 2 °C. Therefore, these results confirm those obtained by
this temperature decrease in more detail, both in theoretical Eugster and Rybach [10].
terms using various publications or simulations carried out We can therefore conclude that ground temperature
with TRNSYS software [9] and experimental terms decrease is possible more or less in the long term, to a var-
through the installation on a private residence. ied extent depending on soil characteristics, initial ground
Eugster and Rybach [10] conducted a series of measure- temperature, moisture content, building loads, borehole
ments on a single, coaxial, 105 m deep BHE used to heat a spacing, borehole fill material, etc. If this thermal depletion
single family house located in Zurich (Switzerland). The of the soil is too extensive, it may result in a decrease in the
ground temperature at a distance of one metre from the seasonal performance factor (SPF), which may render its
BHE cooled down in the first two years of use. After ten long-term operation uncertain and insufficient longevity
years of use, a new stable thermal equilibrium is established of geothermal heat pump systems. Our study aims to rem-
between BHE and ground, at temperatures which are some edy this problem by finding a balance between thermal
2 °C lower than originally. However, it is important to note depletion and recovery in ground. This will be enabled by
that this study was conducted on a single BHE, resulting in thermal ground regeneration via solar collectors during
relatively high natural ground recovery due to the infinite excess solar production periods and heat pump operation
volume of ground around the BHE. Thermal ground in cooling mode when the building is being cooled.

Average soil temperature (°C)

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
Time in years

Fig. 2. Variations in average soil temperature in the vicinity of a borehole heat exchanger.
V. Trillat-Berdal et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 27 (2007) 1750–1755 1753

4. GEOSOL project overview The measurement system set up (circuit temperatures,

hydraulic system flowrates, power consumption of the
4.1. Description of process heat pump, . . .) enables precise tracking of energy flows
(energy extracted from ground (heating mode) or injected
The GEOSOL process (Fig. 3) is being testing under real in ground (cooling mode), solar energy available, energy
conditions in a 180 m2 single family house (Fig. 4) at St consumptions for domestic hot water production, for
Jean d’Arvey in Savoie (France) since the autumn of heating and cooling mode). This data will be used to
2004. The main characteristics of the installation are as fol- validate the models developed with TRNSYS, and subse-
lows: two double-U borehole heat exchangers 90 m long; quently to optimise the design and operation of the
12 m2 of rooftop thermal solar collectors, this surface area GEOSOL process.
is oversized with respect to the domestic hot water require-
ments alone so that the excess solar energy production is
routed to the floor heating or to the boreholes to favour
thermal ground recovery; a reversible heat pump with an
heating power of 15.5 kW (CIAT Auréa ILA Z60); a
500 l combined solar/electrical hot water tank; a low-tem-
perature floor distribution system; the water–antifreeze
mixture (35% glycol solution, antifreeze to 18 °C) circu-
lates throughout the installation.
It is important to note that the circulation pumps only
operate sequentially. Therefore, their electricity consump-
tion is minimized and, in any case, less than or equal to
solutions comprising circulation pumps coupled with
three-way valves, which generate higher maintenance costs.
A regulation system splits the operation of the installa-
tion into three main operating sequences described in the
section below. Fig. 4. View of house used for the experiment.

Fig. 3. Principle diagram of GEOSOL process.

1754 V. Trillat-Berdal et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 27 (2007) 1750–1755

4.2. Description of operating sequences ground, while the other only uses energy supplied by ther-
mal solar collectors.
During the first possible operating sequence, the solar In order to tend towards a solution where the combina-
collectors are involved in domestic hot water production tion of the two above systems is optimised, the following
and, in addition, the geothermal heat pump meets the two intermediate solutions will be envisaged:
building’s heating or cooling requirements. During the sec-
ond possible sequence, the solar energy produced is – Intermediate solution: consists of juxtaposing a geother-
injected directly into the low-temperature heating floor mal heat pump for heating and an independent domestic
(direct solar floor heating principle) or, if the temperature solar hot water system, with each component being
level is insufficient, it may be used to supply the heat pump designed in a completely independent manner.
cooling source to improve its COP. Finally, the third pos- – GEOSOL solution: consists of a combination of a geo-
sible operating sequence consists of recharging the soil via thermal heat pump and thermal solar collectors for heat-
solar collectors or meeting the building’s cooling require- ing and domestic hot water production. Compared to
ments by the reversible heat pump. the intermediate solution, the solar collectors circuit is
connected to the floor heating circuit (PSD) and the
BHE system in order to recharge the ground during
5. Theoretical approach periods of excess solar production.

TRNSYS software is widely used by the international The purpose of the modelling will also be to study the
scientific community in the field of energy applications various operating sequences of the GEOSOL process in
and is based on interconnectable models known as detail. The purpose of simulating these sequences is to
‘‘TYPEs’’. The TYPEs correspond to the modelling of determine whether their respective operating time is signif-
the components of the system studied (BHE system, ther- icant and to evaluate their influence on the installation’s
mal solar collectors, etc.) or specific functions (weather file annual energy and environmental balance. In each
reading, etc.). The software includes a basic component sequence, sensitivity studies will be conducted to analyse
library, but it is also possible to create new components the influence of the different parameters. Other sequences
or make changes to those that already exist. liable to improve the installation’s performance will also
The modelling will make it possible to conduct a theo- be envisaged and studied.
retical study on the various alternative versions of the
GEOSOL process (see Table 1 below), in order to determine 6. Conclusions
the best process configuration(s) representing the optimum
technical and economical solution guaranteeing the com- The combination of renewable energies such as thermal
mercial distribution of the system. This analysis will enable solar energy and geothermal energy in a single system
a competitive positioning of the installations under study should make it possible to meet heating, cooling and hot
with respect to conventional heating installations. water requirements, while guaranteeing a satisfactory level
So as to obtain a progressive comparative approach, ini- of comfort and quality of use under all circumstances.
tially, a geothermal heat pump only, which will serve as a The project developed is indicative of the determination
reference for all the other alternative versions in the study, of the industrial partners working together to design new
will be envisaged. On the other hand, the direct solar floor energy systems in line with current technical, economical
system only will also be taken into consideration so as and environmental constraints, aiming to reduce green-
obtain, with the above system, two diametrically opposed house gas emissions and, more generally, have sustainable
basic solutions, since one only uses energy from the operating system.
The end purpose of the GEOSOL project is to offer an
Table 1 alternative technical solution which helps reduce operating
Overview of the various alternative versions studied costs compared to those generated by conventional solu-
Technical Heating Domestic hot water tions using fossil energies. In addition, our solution initially
solution devised for private dwellings may be extended to collective
Heat pump Heat pump Electrical hot water system dwellings and the tertiary sector. For these two types of
reference application, thermal solar collectors could help reduce
solution the number of boreholes and the investment cost of the
Intermediate Heat pump Independent solar hot water installation.
solution system and electrical supply
GEOSOL Heat pump Oversized independent solar hot
solution water system and electrical Acknowledgements
Solar Direct solar floor Solar energy and electrical This study was financially supported by the APS
reference heating and energy supply (Assemblée des Pays de Savoie) and by the ADEME
solution supply
(Agence française de l’Environnement et de la Maı̂trise
V. Trillat-Berdal et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 27 (2007) 1750–1755 1755

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