Madrid’s subterranean heat-producing blues (with apologies to Bob Dylan)
On Tuesday I attended an event at Madrid’s Polytechnic University (UPM) to present the findings of Madrid Subterra, a public-private initiative on extracting the heat from the Spanish capital’s subsoil using geothermal energy, aerothermal energy, hydrothermia, heat exchangers and thermoactive walls. There’s more information about the initiative in the nice, “for all audiences” presentation (in Spanish) that Professor Javier Muñoz gave at the event.
The event highlighted the tremendous inefficiency of our cities and why we need to look at using our vast subterranean infrastructure to produce energy, most of which is wasted, contributing to the urban heat island effect caused by cities, whereby urban islands are much warmer than the surrounding countryside. As internationally acclaimed bioclimatic architect Emilio Miguel Mitre pointed out at the presentation, human civilization sits atop the surface of the planet like “a kind of mold” ignoring what lies beneath our feet. Another of the participants, José María Martínez-Val, Professor of Energy Engineering at the School of Industrial Engineers at UPM, helped us better understand the possibilities and limitations of projects of this nature.
The presentations showed how, using the infrastructure of Metro de Madrid (one of the best subway systems in the world) and Madrid Calle 30 (the largest urban tunnel network in Europe), responsible for the capital’s underground rail and its beltway respectively, to do things such as climatizing metro stations by means of water wells, or providing heating in winter, cooling in summer or hot water for residential or other types of buildings. Thermo-activating tunnel walls, for example, is easily carried out during construction, allowing energy to be extracted from them.
The technology already exists and is being applied in cities around the world, meanwhile, Spain’s state railway company RENFE and the capital’s water utility, the Canal de Isabel II, among others, will hopefully at some point make their infrastructures available too to help produce more efficient energy treatment, thus placing Madrid among the growing ranks of the world’s smart cities.
(En español, aquí)