An Efficient Annual-Performance Model of a Geothermal Network for Improved System Design, Operation, and Control: Preprint

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Geothermal district energy systems (DES), and specifically geothermal networks, provide a viable solution for decarbonizing residential and commercial heating and cooling loads. District energy systems of all kinds enable a thermal resource with a relatively high capital cost (such as a geothermal borehole field) to be shared among a large number of users. While district heating and cooling has been studied for many years, geothermal networks, fifth generation DES that utilize water-source heat pumps and an ambient temperature loop to meet heating and cooling loads, have not been implemented extensively and thus require additional technical and economic optimization to obtain maximum benefits. This paper presents a newly developed reduced-order model that captures the flow of energy within the network, including the commercial and residential users' electrical usage, at an hourly rate over a year. The model includes building loads, heat pumps, borehole fields, and auxiliary heat/cool input, all connected with an ambient-temperature thermal loop model. In the model, operational control is possible for the borehole fields, circulation pump, and auxiliary system. For a given system, the model can output the complete state parameters for each component, the thermal loop, and the collective system, such as flow rate over time, average thermal loop temperature over time, and total electricity usage. The model can also be used to optimize the system control for maximizing system efficiency or minimizing system operational cost. For example, one initial assessment of the borehole controller for an example system showed that a controller with on/off operation of the borehole field reduces annual electrical usage by 33%, compared with continuous operation mode. Hence, the model can assist in optimizing a given system's operation to get the most value out of a geothermal network installation. Future work will consider the model's application to a demonstration project, including the model validation against operational data and system operation optimization.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages15
StatePublished - 2024
EventStanford Geothermal Workshop - Stanford, CA
Duration: 12 Feb 202414 Feb 2024


ConferenceStanford Geothermal Workshop
CityStanford, CA

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/CP-5700-88488


  • ambient-temperature loop
  • borehole
  • control
  • district energy system
  • district heating and cooling
  • geothermal heat pump
  • geothermal network
  • ground-source heat pump
  • heat pump
  • thermal energy network


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