12 January 2011

Geothermal energy bubbling its way to the surface in Paris

Less than 5 miles from the Eiffel tower, a 120 foot cylinder rises into the air, not unlike the Egyptian obelisk a little further down the street. This is not a new art installation or a simple flag pole, however, but rather a modified piece of machinery more familiar with the drilling of oil, rather than the task at hand. The equipment is being used, in fact, for the purpose of harnessing the geothermal energy under the streets of Paris, a innovative undertaking considering it’s happening right in the middle of a major metropolitan city.

We’re no strangers to geothermal projects, however this one is a bit unique in that unlike most geothermal stations which utilize the subterranean heat to product electricity, this one will be used to frankly just recirculate hot water. While that might not sound terribly high-tech or sexy, looking at the details makes it a lot more appealing.

The hot water well they are drilling will dive down 1.7km, just over a mile, into the earth, where things are at a constantly balmy 57ÂșC. They will pump the water up from the depths which will heat a water reservoir at the surface, and then return it to the bottom to be heated once again. The surface reservoir will in turn pump hot water to nearby apartment buildings, most of which are heated with radiators. They plan to heat an impressive 12,000 apartments with this single well, including those of some buildings which will be completed in 2011.

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