Michigan Tech researchers test use of mine water for geothermal energy

6 April 2015 (Last Updated April 6th, 2015 18:30)

Researchers at Michigan Technological University in the US have unveiled the first comprehensive guidebook that can be used by communities to explore the feasibility of using mine water for geothermal energy to heat and cool buildings.

Mine_Tunnel

Researchers at Michigan Technological University in the US have unveiled the first comprehensive guidebook that can be used by communities to explore the feasibility of using mine water for geothermal energy to heat and cool buildings.

One mine water geothermal system is located at the university's Keweenaw Research Center just north of Houghton, Michigan.

In order to understand the local potential, the research team worked with the University's Keweenaw Research Center and community leaders in Calumet and will present the work findings to the public in Calumet, Michigan.

Michigan Technological University sociology and demography researcher Richelle Winkler said: "Using the mine water for geothermal energy creates an opportunity to recast community identity."

Community members can use a calculator tool to interact with a tabletop model that shows the way mine water geothermal works.

"Using the mine water for geothermal energy creates an opportunity to recast community identity." 

They can also calculate the distance from their home to the nearest mine shaft and make approximate cost calculations for installation and pay-back.

Michigan Tech graduate student Edward Louie said the mine water in the Keweenaw stays around 53°F to 55°F all year-round.

The pump concentrates a small amount of heat from the mine water in a geothermal heating system making the water remain warmer. For cooling, it works in reverse, dumping cooler air into the building.

At the Keweenaw Research Center (KRC), Louie and his team pipe the mine water up from 300ft below the surface.

The water controls the temperature of a closed loop system within the building, with the help of a large heat exchanger.


Image: Old mine tunnels are filled with water, which may serve as a valuable geothermal resource. Photo: courtesy of Edward Louie.