News & Media | 22 August 2017

Going deep with Geothermal

GeoThermal_600x339

The real benefits of Geothermal Technology are starting to become evident at Western Sydney’s Fairwater. Development Manager, Edward Murray shares the inside story for how it came about for the 6 Star Green Star Community.

Geothermal is not a word that factors in the day-to-day glossary of the development industry. Yet.

For some, it may conjure up the vague idea of the internal heat of the earth, but you wouldn’t think it’s a potential answer to staying warm in winter and keeping cool in summer. Not to mention minimising ever-increasing energy costs.

For us, it’s one of a number of initiatives that we’re working on which we think to deliver a better customer experience and a higher quality home.

So what is it and how does it work? Geothermal is a sustainable, reliable, clean power source that reduces dependence on fossil fuel. We use the constant 22-degree temperature below the earth, pumping refrigerant directly through this subterranean environment (where it cools in summer and heats it in winter) and then back into homes via copper pipes. This way, the heating and cooling systems have much less work to do and therefore operate more efficiently with less energy intensity.

I won’t pretend we’re the first to the Geothermal party, but we certainly are the first to execute it on the scale we have in our Fairwater community.

We began talking about Geothermal back in 2011 as an action from our visioning workshop. We questioned how best to address sustainability at a project level for Fairwater. We wanted initiatives that provided a net benefit to the environment as well as to our customers. We were looking for measures that exemplified Frasers Property’s progressive approach to sustainability and also met the desire of council for more sustainable developments that add to the progression of Blacktown.

The idea of Geothermal was proposed by our CEO Rod Fehring, as an opportunity to deliver an energy benefit that was unique to Fairwater, and Australia in fact. Blacktown is known for being hot in summer and cold in winter, making a cost-effective heating and cooling solution was absolutely essential for our customers. For us, Geothermal ticked two key boxes. It created community pride in sustainability and the flow-on savings to household running costs. It also embedded sustainability initiatives into the design of Fairwater, underpinning Frasers Property’s commitment in this area.

The principles of Geothermal heating and cooling are widely used in the Northern Hemisphere, with great success. Our team quickly realised however that the challenge to installing geothermal at such a large scale would be to develop an Australian manufactured solution.

Fortunately, at Frasers Property, we work with some clever suppliers. We connected QPS Geothermal with Actron Air in order to commence research and development on a local solution. A locally manufactured solution and system of installation provided reliability in delivery as well as an air-conditioning system that looked and felt like any typical system with Australian warranties.

With a suitable design in place, our attention turned to making on-site construction of this technology possible. The introduction of another service into an already restricted services design required very detailed up front planning from the design team not to mention meticulous attention to detail by the construction team with setting out tolerances as little as 100mm.

It takes approximately one month to install Geothermal loops to a stage of 30 homes. Absorbing this into our construction timelines required significant planning from our construction team and flexibility from the other trades we work with at Fairwater. We are happy to say that with the help of all involved on the ground we were able to deliver a product that followed through on our vision in a timely manner while providing maximum benefit to our customers.

We’re monitoring the benefits, but early reports from residents have indicated a 40 to 60 per cent decrease in energy costs compared to their previous home. If it’s $600 saved per year over a 30-year life in the house that’s a potential saving of $18,000. Dollars aside, for most customers it’s the icing on the cake of their beautiful new home in Fairwater, and I’m pretty proud of the team at Frasers Property who delivered it.