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Does anybody know the policy regarding installing Geothermal energy plants in your backyard in Canberra?

By James-T-Kirk 19 June 2010 22

In this era of saving energy, I have been looking at various energy producing options available to the Kirk household.

Solar – cells on my roof, limiting access to allow replacement of broken roof tiles.
Nuclear – Hmmmm glowing in the dark simply does not appeal.
Geothermal… now thats an idea!

I know that the local council gets the screaming heebies if you put in your own bore, but I can’t find anywhere that says I can’t install my own geothermal plant… I think I just have to start drilling….


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22 Responses to
Does anybody know the policy regarding installing Geothermal energy plants in your backyard in Canberra?
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Icepoet 5:04 pm 28 Jun 10

Hey Captain Kirk,

I was reading through some online news when I found this article today.

Not sure about the legality issues in Australia but apparently in the US it’s fine.

la mente torbida 9:49 am 21 Jun 10


Have you tried to ship a laptop battery lately? As far as freight carriers are concerned, it would be far easier to declare it as a nuclear powerplant.

bugmenot 9:26 am 21 Jun 10

Gerry-Built said :

I think there would be some serious concerns about a backyard deep geothermal system in suburban Canberra…

Care to elaborate?

I don’t see any issues at all with a geothermal system. The bores are only about 150mm in diameter, pipes are inserted and then the bores are backfilled. There’s nothing to collapse, there’s nothing to trip on, there’s no unsightly plant equipment (can and should be inside the house).

In the systems that I have seen, the pipes usually carry a liquid (as opposed to air as mentioned in the Gleneagles house), which is then circulated to a heat exchanger for storage or transferal to other mediums (heating air for example). A good example of this is

GHE is really best applied to a newly built house rather than trying to retrofit it to an existing residence. Even adding it to an extension, you aren’t taking advantage of the amount of free heating/cooling at your disposal.

troll-sniffer 9:08 am 21 Jun 10

I would think that the guvmnt would be quite receptive to a sensible plan to tap into geothermal energy via a drill hole. It would probably involve a mining licence with safeguards to ensure you are only extracting geothermal heat and aren’t putting in a sneaky bore or looking for mineral riches.

AGSO and Dept of Climate Change and whatever bit of the ACT guvmnt is responsible for energy targets would be a better place than this rowdy rabble to get information.

One 4:43 pm 20 Jun 10

Your own engery free from Government taxes.. LMFAO..
Na No chance, simply because someone needs you to pay for their kids.

NoAddedMSG 11:10 am 20 Jun 10

My NZ-based father has a plan involving a giant pile of compost to heat his glasshouse and grow pineapples if this whole global warming shindig doesn’t deliver the necessary temps. Giant pile of compost, run water pipes through it. Do you even need a DA for a compost heap? 9:52 am 20 Jun 10

If you want a simple heat source you can go nuclear. The small nuclear heat generators for sale these days are a lot simpler and less hazardous than the glow in the dark Chernobyal or Windscale type reactors. They come off the shelf, fit into most typical ute trays and you just bury them in you back yard, pump water in one pipe and draw hot water out the other pipe. The water never reaches boiling temperature from what I’ve read so it can’t boil off the water and go super critical. Just what you need for heating your swimming pool during winter or a small village of 700 people in Alaska.

Get Googling the Toshiba 4S reactor. Oh, yeah, when you import it, tell them it’s a laptop battery. I mean sure it is big, but it is made by Toshiba so Customs will buy that.

bugmenot 7:33 am 20 Jun 10

Err… :s/Thumper/cranky/

bugmenot 7:32 am 20 Jun 10

I looked into it some time back.

In the ACT you don’t own the land and as such there are limits imposed on how deep you may dig/build.

The only option is the shallow trench (Thumper, there isn’t a big difference in temp, it’s purely about getting enough length of pipe for the heat exchange to work). The shallow trench presents it’s own problems with gas/electricity/plumbing/stormwater/clearances etc.

In my case, the only place to trench was hampered by sewerage and stormwater easements, so I stopped looking.

It’s more expensive to dig the trench than it is to drill the vertical holes.

I was only aware of geothermal being used in commercial buildings in the ACT (the Caltex servo at the airport is a good example, paid for itself in 12 months I believe).

Ceej1973 2:55 am 20 Jun 10

Someone won the lottery!

indigoid 1:17 am 20 Jun 10

Could you fix the broken roof tiles before fitting the solar panels? No rocket surgery here…

Woody Mann-Caruso 11:01 pm 19 Jun 10

Why not methane? You don’t seem to have a shortage of bullsh*t, Tiberius.

Gerry-Built 10:37 pm 19 Jun 10

Thumper said :

Personally I’m going to buy a second hand North Korean nuclear generator on eBay and put it in my laundry.

Whoa! You live way too close to me for me not to object that DA! 😉

The ‘geothermal’ system in Gleneagles (I remember reading the article in Canberra’s only serious paper – The Chronicle) had 4 bores sunk to 50m and pipes installed to circulate air through the pipes and into the house. Below about 5m, the soil in Canberra is a constant 17c. It had been installed for around the same price as a ducted gas system. So only spot heating required to raise the temp to a comfy level…

I think there would be some serious concerns about a backyard deep geothermal system in suburban Canberra…

Thumper 8:33 pm 19 Jun 10


That’s one seriously big hole.

Personally I’m going to buy a second hand North Korean nuclear generator on eBay and put it in my laundry.

cranky 7:33 pm 19 Jun 10

Interested in this technology.

Googling throws up a patchy reply. There seems to be two methods, shallow drilling (low temp) and deep (high temp).

Would appreciate links to any info which expands on this technology. Can you hire a drilling rig and go down 500 metres and tap into 140 degree soil? In Canberra?

sexynotsmart 6:54 pm 19 Jun 10

I wouldn’t object to the DA if you were my neighbour.

But please o please don’t be a damn hypocrite in the build. To enhance your green credentials, don’t use one of the CO2-belching machines to drill for you.

Dig the damn thing by hand.

Pork Hunt 6:35 pm 19 Jun 10

Submit a DA for a cellar, just make it a deep one…

p1 5:41 pm 19 Jun 10

I’ve often wondered about this. I think that your biggest problem would be retrofitting such a system to a property which already has a house situated on it. Space and all that.

Would you need building approval for something like this?

Anna Key 5:36 pm 19 Jun 10

As long as the ACT govt can work out how to tax it, it shouldn’t be a problem

Gerry-Built 2:25 pm 19 Jun 10

ACTEWAGL hold the rights to harvest water resources in the ACT. You are going to need to apply (in writing) for an exemption through the EPA. An exemption, and a very, very long drill bit.

Shouldn’t be a problem harvesting Geothermal – they already have a system in the AGSO building in Symonston, and there is at least one house in Canberra (in Gleneagles Estate, off Kambah Pool Road) with a ‘geothermal’ ducted air system – installed 15-20 years ago.

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