The use of heat pumps for cooling and heating on Irish farms is just one tool in the tool box for creating renewable energy in future, according to Teagasc.

Teagasc energy and rural development specialist Barry Caslin said that accessing geothermal energy has the potential to increase energy efficiency and reduce costs on many farms, particularly those in the horticulture, poultry, pig and dairy sectors.

He said that the pumps can be used alongside and may complement other forms of renewable farm energy, including wind, solar PV and biogas.

Caslin made his comments while speaking at a workshop on the use of heat pumps in agriculture at Teagasc Ashtown in Dublin on Tuesday.

Some 30 farmers and agri-food business owners attended the event, which saw a series of presentations from stakeholders including Geological Survey Ireland (GSI), researchers from UCD and a number of heat pump installers.

The event was the first in a series to be held by Teagasc, with each workshop focusing on a separate form of on-farm renewable energy.

Geothermal energy

Opening the workshop, Caslin said: “Very often, people get confused with all the technologies that are out there.”

He said that the Teagasc workshops will help farmers “get a better understanding” of the various forms of renewable energy generation.

GSI’s Dr Sarah Blake explained that geothermal energy is energy that is stored beneath the surface of the earth and noted that it is “zero carbon at source”.

She said that despite Ireland’s position away from tectonic plate lines, Irish farmers can still access this energy below the surface.

“Countries with broadly similar geographical settings are making a go of it,” she said.


The mechanisms under which a heat pump can operate were discussed at the workshop. Attendees were shown that ground source heat collection can involve an open system or closed loop and within this that a horizontal, vertical or slinky loop can be used to draw warm water to the surface for use in heating or cooling.

The energy generated can be used to heat poultry and pig units, warm horticultural greenhouses or cool milk, said Caslin.

The use of heat pumps in this way on Irish farms is only limited by imagination, according to Mike Cotter of Alternative Heating and Cooling Ltd.

He said that each system can be “unique” to the farmers' needs and that “what works for one, may not work for another”.

Cotter, who has worked on the installation of heat pumps on a number of dairy farms said for their real potential to be realised, dairy co-ops and milk processing engineers need to work with farmers.

Mad idea

Comparing Ireland’s use of renewable heat energy with the rest of Europe, chief technology officer of renewable energy advisory company Astatine David Connolly said that “there is no reason” why “Ireland is in last place”.

He said the use of geothermal energy on Irish farms is “not a mad idea” and described a number of countries in Europe which have working systems on farms “ready to look at”.

He also said that the use of heat pumps in the agri-food processing sector is “low-hanging fruit”.

Outlining the policy decisions needed to increase the use of heat pumps in Irish agriculture, geoscience researcher at University College Dublin (UCD) Dr Nick Vafeas said: “Currently, only 6.3% of all heating and cooling in Ireland is renewable. In Sweden, that is 66.4%. The right [Government] policy can gain that ground quite quickly.”

Dr Sarah Blake highlighted the open consultation currently being held by Government as it develops a “geothermal policy statement”. She said this may lead to legislation on the use of geothermal energy by the end of 2023.


Speaking to the Irish Farmers Journal following the workshop, Barry Caslin said that any farmers interested in using heat pumps on their farm should first conduct an energy use audit.

He said this will then provide a clear picture of where efficiencies can be made and where new technologies can be introduced.

Caslin encouraged those interested to attend the remainder of Teagasc’s workshop series on on-farm renewable energy, the details of which will be published on the Teagasc website.

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