Following on from a recent post on this site about a number of ski lodges at Mt Hotham installing solar panels to provide power, this is an update about a club at Hotham which has also started to use geothermal power for heating.

Image: Brush Ski Club

According to Wikipedia,

“A geothermal heat pump, ground source heat pump (GSHP), or ground heat pump is a central heating and/or cooling system that pumps heat to or from the ground.

It uses the earth as a heat source (in the winter) or a heat sink (in the summer). This design takes advantage of the moderate temperatures in the ground to boost efficiency and reduce the operational costs of heating and cooling systems”.

According to the Brush Ski Club,

“Victoria’s Alpine Resorts are facing the challenging hurdles of rapidly escalating energy costs, climate change and the national target to cut greenhouse emissions. We fully endorse Australia’s Keep Winter Cool initiative and are proactively committed to sustainability outcomes.

In an effort to jump these hurdles Mount Hotham’s B’Rush Ski Club has searched for many years to find an energy efficient and environmentally friendly solution to our energy requirements. In a location where winter temperatures dip to below minus 10 degrees keeping a large building at a comfortable room temperature has a high energy demand. In the past, B’Rush Ski Club has employed a combination of electric and gas fired boilers to provide hot water and heating for our guests. With energy prices on the rise and the desire to reduce our carbon footprint the club began a search for an alternate energy source.

After looking to the USA and Europe, where similar alpine environments exist, the Club decided on ‘GeoExchange’ or Ground Sourced Heat Pump (GSHP) technology. GeoExchange technology is commonly used in Europe and North America to provide low cost, low emission heating and cooling of buildings. Ground Source Heat Pumps or GSHPs are recognised as the most efficient and environmentally friendly heating and cooling systems available today, using as little as 25 % of the energy of conventional systems. This translates directly to lower costs and lower emissions.

A GHSP system is much like a reverse cycle air conditioner. The major difference is that instead of using the outside air to provide the energy the GSHPs extract renewable heat from the ground via a system of bores drilled into the earth. These bores carry a refrigerant loop that extracts ground heat, transporting it into the building. This solution will provide both heating for the building, via floor heating and radiator panels, as well as hot water for 40 guests.

The GeoExchange project has been facilitated by the Victorian Government’s ‘Four Seasons Energy Pilot Program’. The Victorian Government has provided 50% funding for the bore drilling as well as expertise and guidance in design and implementation. The assistance of the Government has turned a possibility into a reality.

The installation of this technology, in combination with a substantial upgrade to building insulation and an efficient floor system has cut our energy consumption by 75 % and our fossil fuel usage by more than 80 %. The payback period of 6 years is considered by the club to be completely acceptable given the expected 30 to 50 year life of our building. Since commissioning, forecasted savings have been exceeded with several spin-off benefits. The new system is spectacularly comfortable, has been universally acclaimed by our guests, the resort and wider communities and has been featured in several publications and forums, inc the 2009 Alpine Resorts Sustainability Forum at Thredbo on the 1st May.

This project is currently the highest GSHP installation in Australia and the first (of we hope, many) in an alpine environment”.

Congratulations to Brush Ski Club for their leadership on this. A number of other lodges and businesses in the Hotham – Dinner Plain area are also investigating using this energy source.