Old Man Winter Can’t Chill These Solar Homes

Wouldn’t it be great if communities in far-flung northern reaches could store up the energy of those long summer days and use it to provide heat in the winter? A development known as the Drake Landing Solar Community in Alberta, Canada, has figured out how to do just that, and netted this year’s Energy Globe World Award in the process.

The 52 homes of the Drake Landing Solar Community in Okotoks makes use of garage-mounted solar thermal arrays, which work to heat a large amount of water. This water is then stored undergound, via a borehole thermal energy storage (BTES) system and a series of pipes. The pipes run through a collection of 144 holes that stretch thirty-seven meters (around 121 feet) below the ground and cover an area thirty-five meters (around 114 feet) in diameter.

image via DLSC

As the heated water travels through the pipes, heat is transferred to the sand, high-density R-40 insulation, waterproof membrane, clay, and other landscaping materials that surround the BTES system. By the end of each summer, the temperature of the earth in the park area that houses the BTES system will reach 80 degrees Celsius (176 degrees Farenheit).

All that heat comes in handy, of course, during Alberta’s long  winter months, when the water (kept warm until its needed via a unique recirculating system) is used to heat this master-planned community via radiant heating, coupled with a heat exchanger, in every house. As a result, these homes — designed to operate 30 percent more efficiently than conventionally built homes — meet 90 percent of their heating needs with solar thermal energy. The Drake Landing Solar Community is believed to be the world’s first such development to utilize this technology in this way.

Doug Mc Clenahan, one of the visionaries behind the project, was on hand in Austria to accept the 2011 Energy Globe Award, which attracted more than 1000 individual participants from all over the world. More information on the award, and other winning projects, is available online.

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.