Department Surface Waters - Research and Management

Using Lakes for heating and cooling

Deep lakes can be used as important sources or sinks of heat for heating and cooling purposes. This is a previously neglected renewable energy source. Recently, several new projects have been developed to use lakes in Switzerland for heating or cooling purposes. As a consequence, public awareness of this potential energy source has also increased.

In a project financed by the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment, we have investigated the potential of lakes and rivers in Switzerland to be used as energy sources for heating and cooling. Detailed information is published on the Thermdis project website. These estimates show the great existing potential of this energy source in Switzerland. For the use of individual water bodies, however, the potential must be estimated in each case, taking into account the specific characteristics of the water body. Such assessments have already been carried out for individual lakes (e.g. Lake Constance or Lake Zug) as part of consulting and research projects.

The factsheet " Use of thermal energy from lakes and rivers" provides an overview of the most important points to consider from a water protection perspective when planning systems for heat usage from surface waters.

Key publications

Gaudard, A.; Wüest, A.; Schmid, M. (2019) Using lakes and rivers for extraction and disposal of heat: estimate of regional potentials, Renewable Energy, 134, 330-342, doi:10.1016/j.renene.2018.10.095, Institutional Repository
Gaudard, A.; Weber, C.; Alexander, T. J.; Hunziker, S.; Schmid, M. (2018) Impacts of using lakes and rivers for extraction and disposal of heat, Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Water, 5(5), e1295 (18 pp.), doi:10.1002/wat2.1295, Institutional Repository
Gaudard, A.; Schmid, M.; Wüest, A. (2018) Thermische Nutzung von Seen und Flüssen. Potenzial der Schweizer Oberflächengewässer, Aqua & Gas, 98(2), 26-33, Institutional Repository
Fink, G.; Schmid, M.; Wüest, A. (2014) Large lakes as sources and sinks of anthropogenic heat: capacities and limits, Water Resources Research, 50(9), 7285-7301, doi:10.1002/2014WR015509, Institutional Repository