UofL studies geothermal energy as a solution to icy bridges in Kentucky

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet recently granted Dr. Omid Ghasemi Fare, faculty member in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, an award for $8,200 for his research into geothermal heating, the first portion of a total $263,473 which runs for three more years. The project looks to utilize the existing geothermal energies, ambient heat trapped in the ground, to help keep bridges clear of ice by installing tubing that runs underneath the pavement, providing heating through shallow geothermal energy.

An Iranian native, Ghasemi Fare became interested in geothermal energies initially during his time at Sharif University in Tehran. With three active fault lines in Tehran, Iran, he began his research with an emphasis on geotechnical earthquake engineering. Through that process, he developed an understanding of the sandy soil behavior during the earthquake. After attending a conference on geothermal energy, Ghasemi Fare shifted his focus to geothermal energy piles in the United States in an effort to help best combat climate change.

For Ghasemi Fare, geothermal provides an opportunity for renewable, sustainable energy, one that works best in places that experience temperature extremes, like Iran or Kentucky.

“The areas that have the most climate variation are good, so Kentucky is good. Areas like Arizona or Florida, where it’s warmer regularly, harnessing geothermal energy might not be as efficient," said Ghasemi Fare. The system for geothermal, at the five meter mark, the temperature is constant, above that it’s variable. The first layer of the soil is varied, but 5 to 8 meters down, it’s a constant temperature. This works as a battery to charge and recharge.”

Working with the KY transportation cabinet to harvest energy from the ground below the slab, the goal is to embed tubing underneath existing roadways, existing asphalt layers, to prove the viability of the resource as a renewable source of power, that has the supplemental value of increasing public safety.

“In Europe, they’re beginning to use this type of energy. They’re working on using energy piles, using geothermal piles, they are really building it, not just testing it," he said. "In the U.S., we’re still testing it. There is not just one application in which we use it.”

Source: Dr. Omid Ghasemi Fare Explores Geothermal Energy (UofL CEED News, May 22, 2018)