Darcy Solutions’ technology was developed by Dr. Jimmy Randolph, Darcy’s co-founder, and Scott Alexander, Darcy’s chief geologist, while working at the University of Minnesota hydrogeology field research facility. Their research established the company’s operating philosophy of “putting ground water to work,” using the superior thermal properties of groundwater to heat and cool commercial and residential buildings.
This patent-pending approach harnesses the thermal advantages of water and the consistent temperature of shallow Earth to make sustainable heating and cooling feasible and financially attractive for commercial and residential buildings. This technology dramatically improves HVAC system efficiency, significantly lowering energy use and reducing site footprint requirements up to 95%.
The demonstration project is anticipated to take place at the Morris campus of the University of Minnesota and will displace the fossil fuel dependency for the heating and cooling of campus buildings. The hydrogeology has been preliminarily assessed and shown high potential for this area to install geothermal wells. The project will enter a design phase this spring, which will determine the scope and scale of the installation. Since the campus relies on a district energy system that connects multiple buildings to shared heating and cooling sources, there is potential for this demonstration to test the benefits of geothermal system optimization for shared building loads.
The geothermal energy that occurs across various parts of the globe, such as Iceland, can offer 2 important and beneficial uses. High temperature geothermal (>360 F) can be used to create steam which in turn can be used to generate electricity. Lower temperature (68 – 302 F) geothermal can be used for direct heating, as the ancient Romans did.
Darcy’s technology utilizes what is really a form of solar energy that is stored in the shallow earth. Groundwater temperatures are relatively stable year-round, and typically reflect the average annual temperature for the area, ranging from 45 degrees F in the northern part of the continental U.S. to 75 degrees F in the southern part of the country. HVAC equipment, such as a heat pump, is designed to supplement these temperatures to provide the desired level of heating or cooling.
By using aquifers for geothermal, the system does not lose efficiency over the course of a season due to the gradual decrease in temperature while heating or a gradual increase in ground temperature while cooling (as happens in traditional geothermal). Maintaining consistent efficiency helps reduce electricity use and cost.
Additionally, the system can be designed to deliver cooling only or heating only without concern for gradual increase (or decrease) in underground temperature over years of operation. This flexibility enables the incorporation of creative heating or cooling systems (e.g., a cooling only system with the use of chilled beams, a DOAS, and no heat pump) for which energy savings can be significant, sometimes as much as a 70% reduction vs. conventional systems.