Top urban news, trends and reports curated for the world’s city leaders. Edited by David Hatch

Urban ‘heat island’ effect has clean-energy upside

In Berlin, swimmers cooled off during an August heat wave. New research from Germany suggests the risks associated with rising temperatures in urban areas could come with the upside of potential to produce geothermal energy. (BRITTA PEDERSEN/EPA/LANDOV)

The “heat island” effect that causes urban temperatures to soar is widely viewed as negative. It spurs use of energy-hogging air conditioners and contributes to air-quality and public-health problems. But Germany’s Karlsruhe Institute of Technology has announced via Science Daily that the phenomenon may have an upside: energy production.

In new research, the institute finds that warm groundwater produced by urban heat islands has potential for heating and cooling. The subterranean aquifers can be detected with help from satellites. Geothermal and ground water heat pumps allow the water to be harnessed for energy production.

“If this geothermal potential would be used, part of the growing energy consumption of cities might be covered,” the institute concludes. Tapping this energy source could help cities counter the ravages of climate change, it says. Researchers examining underground heat islands in four German cities — Berlin, Munich, Cologne and Karlsruhe — found that older municipalities have the warmest aquifers. 

Science Daily

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