Feel the Heat on the Streets

By Emmanuel Narokobi

Fellow rugby club mate and all round good guy Danger has a blog which I read from time to time. He’s taken a year off from PNG to go down south to study ‘Sustainable Energy’.

So some of his posts on what he’s studying are very interesting and one in particular caught my attention. It was the general concept of pumping water through pipes in pavement to use the black-body absorption of the asphalt to collect solar heat and transmit it to the water.

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In other words, using our roads to heat water. Now it’s understandable that this concept came from Europe where it’s cold and all and interestingly enough the guy who invented this concept got the idea from watching sheep lying on the roads to warm themelves. The inventor, a dutchman by the name of Mr. Henk Verweijmeren now has a company developing this concept called Invisible Heating Systems (IHS).

Okay now coming back home to PNG, imagine that huh? Imagine providing hot water for the Port Moresby General Hospital, the Maternity Ward, the Private Clinic, St. Johns Ambulance and the Medical Faculty and that new private hospital at the back of Med. Fac. and all from that stretch of road that goes from Manu Autoport (no, not me..) all the way to the round-a-bout near PNG Motors.

Initial costs to implement may be a bit, but it should save allot of electricity bills and maintenance bills on solar panels and most importantly help with ensuring better health services. Only issue now though is whether our roads will last long enough before we start driving into pipes instead of pot holes.

Anyway just an idea, the more I think about it though the more it seems impractical to me, but let us know if you think it would work or maybe some variant of it?


IHS practices what they preach as they lay pipes under their driive way.

Update – 4.46pm

I’ve been thinking abit more about this and I think this would be more applicable for servicing houses or buildings, that is heating water in a local water system as opposed to servicing an entire block of houses. Something off the main water grid, so to speak. (I think I’m making up technical terms now??)


6 thoughts on “Feel the Heat on the Streets

  1. I’m not sure what the thermal conductivity of black tarmac is compared to standard passive solar water heaters but I reckon it would compare favourably. I think if this was done concurrent to laying new roads it would be cheaper then solar panels too.

    One area it could be useful would be pre-heating water for steam turbine power stations, although really we should be looking at renewable energy sources over turbine driven generators. In PNG we have heaps of options. Solar, Hydro, Wind, Geo-Thermal (my favourite!), tidal and even bio-mass. So many options!

    Thanks for the shout-out Manu.

  2. Oh its still an option. Its a very new technology so there may yet be some clever ways to exploit it.

    But it is true that in a hot and sunny climate like PNG acquiring and retaining heat is not difficult. This system is good for europe because the pipes under the road are very well insulated (an 85% thermal retention rate IIRC).

  3. Considering then that in PNG we have little problems acquiring and retaining heat, what technologies can we use to store heat energy and utilise the energy in other ways besides just heat?

  4. Well steam turbines are a good use of heat. These use pressurised steam to spin a turbine that drives an electrical generator. They are generally powered by burning oil, gas or coal.

    Using solar or other renewables to preheat the water and by using a combined cycle method (ie: also using the waste heat fom the turbine) means you use less fuel heating the liquid to make steam. Therefore making it cheaper and cleaner to generate each kW.

    A combined cycle steam turbine powered by burning biofuel (ie: palm oil) or using Geothermal heat combined with a solar pre-heating of the steam would offer very good energy returns and be environmentally benign. As for cost, with PNG’s good reserves of Oil and Gas its hard to say it would be competitive unless carbon taxes were involved. Although it might well be, I could’nt say for sure unless a cost-benefit analysis were performed.

    Thats all good for electricity generation but from a grass roots POV much fuel is used in cooking fires. Using a solar oven (there are many designs) would reduce the amount of firewood needed to be used. Thus saving labor and forests.

    Check out the solar cooking wiki: http://solarcooking.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page

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