ACTON, MASS.—The parking lot adjacent to your building may soon be good for more than just parking cars. If Acton, Mass.-based Novotech, Inc. is successful in the development of its new technology, the heat energy in the pavement in your lot could soon be used to heat hot water or be used in absorption chillers to provide cooling (see illustration below). According to Tracy Snelling III, vice president of business development for Novotech, the company is currently testing its technology that incorporates plastic PEX tubing that is located about an inch below the pavement. The tubing, arranged in a serpentine pattern, carries the water that Snelling says can easily be heated to as high as 150 degrees, more than hot enough for domestic hot water needs.
For Novotech, a global supplier of infrared optical and semiconductor materials and services, pavement presents a huge opportunity to not only heat water but also reduce the urban heat island effect common where there is a lot of paved ground. The tubing, through a heat transfer process, helps remove the heat out of the pavement. Snelling says there are currently 60,000 square miles of paved roads in the United States—the equivalent of Florida being covered with asphalt. When the system will be available to developers is still in question, as Novotech is currently seeking partners and funding for its venture. Snelling did say, however, that there is one company currently interested in a commercial installation.
“Our target market will be significant users of hot water,” Snelling says, adding that the pavement system leaves no “visible signature,” unlike rooftop solar thermal systems. “We can also provide power after nightfall. Some of our hottest readings were after the sun went down.”
Southern Locations Would Benefit More
Lodging establishments in southern regions of the United States would benefit most from Novotech’s system. Installers would not necessarily have to tear up an entire patch of pavement to put in the system.
“We can also retrofit and carve out channels without doing a complete repave,” Novotech says.
Snelling says the return on investment would be less than two years. Systems a half acre in size could generate $77,000 in utility savings.
Novotech teamed up with Rajib Mallick, an associate professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and Sankha Bhowmick, an associate professor of engineering at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, to develop the technology that is similar to radiant floorboard heating.
Glenn Hasek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.