Journal article

Numerical analysis of the geotechnical behaviour of energy piles

Energy geostructures are rapidly gaining acceptance around the world; they represent a renewable and clean source of energy that can be used for the heating and cooling of buildings and for de-icing of infrastructures. This technology couples the structural role of geostructures with the energy supply, using the principle of shallow geothermal energy. The geothermal energy exploitation represents an additional thermal loading, seasonally cyclic, which is imposed on the soil and the structure itself. Because the primary role of the piles is the stability of the superstructure, this aspect needs to be ensured even in the presence of the additional thermal load. The goal of this paper is to numerically investigate the behaviour of energy pile foundations during heating–cooling cycles. For this purpose, the finite element method is used to simulate both a single and a group of energy piles. The piles are subjected to a constant mechanical load and a seasonally cyclic thermal load over several years, imposed in terms of injected–extracted thermal power. The soil and the pile–soil interface behaviours are reproduced using a thermoelastic-thermoplastic constitutive model. The thermal-induced stresses inside the piles and the additional displacements of the foundations are discussed. The group model is used to investigate the interactions between the piles during thermo-mechanical loading. The presented results are specific to the studied cases but lead to the conclusion that both the thermalinduced displacements and stresses, despite being acceptable under normal working conditions, deserve to be taken into account in the geotechnical design of energy piles.


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