Dr Alistair McCay
- Lecturer (Infrastructure & Environment)
The Water-Energy Nexus
Is an ongoing project to develop a comprehensive appraisal of the heat resource contained in water flows through our cities, towns, and rural areas. The project will support the transition to low carbon heat, by identifying and quantifying opportunities for heating/cooling exchange with water flows.
Some water flows, such as rivers and groundwater, are visible or have been extensively studied, although questions remain over how best to optimise heat exchange with such sources; both in dense urban environments and rural locations.
Many significant water flows are hidden from view in pipes and culverts where the opportunities for heating and cooling and the risks involved have been little researched. Water distribution networks, lost rivers and sewer networks contain significant amounts of low-grade heat which currently is left to flow away. Additionally, since the water is flowing, possibilities for heating/cooling exchange between otherwise unconnected buildings could be created without the need for additional heat network infrastructure.
This project proposes to create a framework for information from several UK urban and rural environments starting with Glasgow. As the city’s diverse range of water flows will provide an ideal opportunity to determine the best methods for estimating the heating/cooling loads different types of flow can provide. The project will then present its findings in a way that can be easily accessed and utilised by energy project developers and local authorities.
We can extract low grade heat from the suburface and, through heat pumps, elevated the temperature to be useful for space heating in buildings. Or we can reverse the process and use the subsurface as a heat sink to cool buildings. By properly understanding the thermal and hydraulic properties of the subsurface, we can ensure that ground heat exchange is done sustainably and will provide optimum system efficiency. These properties also allow us to use the subsurface as heating/cooling storage or as a means to exchange heating and cooling between buildings with complementary heat requirements.
In this research area, we strive to better understand how the subsurface can be used to optimise building performance, providing those building services at lowest cost possible.
If you are interested in undertaking applied research in the interface between water networks and heat energy, then I’d be very pleased to hear from you to discuss ideas for any potential MSc, MEng, or PhD projects.
Examples of possible projects are:
Heat Exchange with Water Networks
Water networks are vital infrastructure for healthy cities, towns, and rural communities, both to bring fresh potable water to people and to remove waste from households and buildings. These networks are also sensitive to changes in temperatures, as higher temperatures can encourage biological activity which can have advantages and disadvantages to the water network. However, the water networks also present a vast flowing heat resource flowing through the heart of our communities.
Could this potential heat resource be used to help heat and cool our cities, towns and rural communities? How can we optimise these processes to reduce emissions and help meet national carbon reduction targets? Can we use heat exchange to provide services to the water network?
If these questions spark an interest, then please get in touch.
Subsurface Thermal Batteries
Recovery and use of waste heat has huge potential to facilitate society’s move away from fossil fuels, particularly those used for heating. However, often the waste heat is available at different times to when the heat is needed.
Storing the heat underground in rock surrounding heat exchange borehole has significant advantages, in terms of space saved on the surface and flexible use of a wide range of temperatures. The technology has been proven to work, for example the Drake Landing Solar Community in Canada. https://www.dlsc.ca/
Questions remain over how to optimise thermal boreholes stores in different rock types, and for different purposes. How do we use subsurface thermal storage to provide best services to heat networks or buildings? How much heat can we store and for how long? Can we engineer the subsurface to enhance thermal storage?
Do you think this subject is interesting? Get in touch if so!
I lead the following courses as part of the Civil Engineering programme:
In Highway Engineering students learn the principles of good highway and street design. There is a particular emphasis on designing living streets, which promote active travel and allow communities to flourish. Students also develop a firm knowledge of material selection for highways, foundation design, and earthworks.
In Geology and Surveying students are introduced to the interesting and diverse world of geology. By learning the principles of earth sciences, we hope to equip our students with a good understanding to be able to successfully engage with Engineering Geology collages during their careers. The students are also introduced to the principles of land surveying, how to use the most common equipment and develop a knowledge base of measurement, accuracy, and precision.
I also support the delivery of the following courses:
ENG3047: Structural Mechanics 3 through teaching the applied Python programming section.