A new residential community development on the outskirts of Sydney is stepping up to the sustainability challenge—and creating an unusual amount of attention in the process. Constructed over what was previously a private golf course, the master plan includes restoration of wetlands and waterways connected into its stormwater management plan, and a number of green spaces and bike paths to support healthier lifestyles.

The main cause for attention, however, is the developer’s approach to energy efficiency. Geothermal technology is being rolled out across the project’s 800 homes, providing the heating and cooling systems needed almost year round in the Greater Sydney region. This is good news for residents, with the average 4-person household anticipated to reduce its energy usage by up to 60 percent compared to those with conventional air conditioning systems—a saving equivalent to approximately US$435 per year at current Australian electricity prices. And, perhaps more importantly, the houses are able to significantly reduce their carbon footprint.

Geothermal takes advantage of the constant temperature below the Earth’s surface, generally cooler than the above ground temperature in summer, and warmer in winter. Typically, refrigerant or water is circulated through bores up to 150 m below the building’s foundations where it adjusts to match the surrounding temperature, before being returned to ground level.

Despite the benefits of geothermal technology, it has experienced a relatively slow uptake when compared to other renewables, for example, solar and wind. This looks set to change however, thanks to Queensland-based company QPS Geothermal, who have developed the GeoAir system—the same one being installed across the Sydney community development.

GeoAir has refined the technology at the residential scale, reducing upfront installation costs and making geothermal more affordable for the domestic market. According to QPS Geothermal director, Paul Costello, this has been achieved by reducing the depth of drilling by up to half, resulting in a significant cost saving. The potential benefits have not gone unnoticed, with a number of national and international developers, as well as one of Australia’s major energy providers, showing growing interest.

For more information, visit: http://www.qpsgeothermal.com.au/residential/

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