Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland
Geothermal energy and ground source heat pumps (GSHPs) provide a means to access and use the heat energy that is contained naturally in the ground.
GSHPs use underground pipes to transfer heat from the ground to the inside of a building to provide heating, hot water or cooling. Water and anti-freeze is pumped around these pipes to absorb underground heat, which is then delivered to the heat pump.
GSHPs use a renewable heat source, but their heat exchangers must be driven by gas or electricity. They are therefore only classified as a renewable energy technology when the power used to drive them is supplied by a renewable energy source, such as a wind turbine.
Geothermal energy can be derived from geologically suitable areas where heat from the earth's core rises to the surface as hot springs or steam. The energy can be accessed by drilling boreholes into the ground and can provide heating or hot water. In some cases it is used to drive geothermal power plants.
Closed loop GSHPs pump water and anti-freeze around a self-contained underground piping system. The mixture contained in the piping system absorbs the heat contained within the ground and transfers it to a building via a heat exchanger.
You need authorisation from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) or the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) to install a closed loop pump if:
Open loop GSHPs remove groundwater from an underground source.
You should contact the NIEA or SEPA before you start to research whether you can install an open loop GSHP on your site.
In Northern Ireland, if you want to operate an open loop GSHP you may need authorisation from the NIEA:
In Scotland, if you want to operate an open loop GSHP you may need a registration or licence under the Controlled Activities Regulation.
Geothermal energy and ground source heat pumps
Guidance - Noise and vibration management: environmental permits, Guidance - Noise and vibration management: environmental permits
Environmental Plans, Principles and Governance for Northern Ireland – Synopsis of Responses, Public responses to the Discussion Document: Environmental Plans, Principles and Governance
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