STOP! Before you read the rest of this blog post, sprint down a flight of stairs and run back up again as fast as you can. GO!
Okay, so how do you feel now? A little hot? Congratulations, you just got a little bit of exercise and experienced the same heating concept that is used in Geothermal Energy.
David Blackwell, SMU’s chief geological expert, recently gave a briefing to congress about the future of alternative energy sources in the United States. It was part of a series on the science and technology needed to achieve the United State’s energy goals titled, “The Road to the New Energy Economy.” Blackwell explained that geothermal is going to play a major part in our energy security in the future, and the US is in a prime position to lead the world in conventional and emerging unconventional geothermal techniques. Slowly but surely, the world is beginning to understand the importance of reducing our dependance on fossil fuels, and geothermal energy is going to play a major role in that transition.
Geothermal Energy is a way to produce energy that combines the use of a renewable resource and drilling. Geothermal energy utilizes the heat that comes from the earth’s core. Think about water that is naturally heated such as the water from “Old Faithful.” This spring is heated by convection currents bringing magma from the earth’s mantle to the earth’s crust. Heat and pressure builds up in the spring causing it spew out at temperatures up to 200∘F. Geothermal energy uses the same concept in order to heat homes or turn turbines.
How do you harvest Geothermal Energy?
Remember running up and down those stairs? Water goes through this same journey as it is pumped or circulated underground. As water comes back up, it can be piped into household radiators and has the potential to heat a home. But this heat also has the potential to produce electricity. After the water cools, the cycle repeats, constantly using the earth’s natural heat. So you may have not been as winded when you ran down the stairs, but you may have felt the heat coming back up.
Water moves through this system and can be recycled as well.
How does Geothermal Energy produce electricity?
As water is pumped into the ground, the water is heated and can be pumped, or naturally flows, into a plant where the water is converted into steam. This steam is then used to turn a turbine, used to generate electricity. It’s the same concept as a coal fired power plant but instead of burning coal, you’re heating the water with renewable energy. Some of these power plants drill up to a thousand feet underground just to generate enough energy so some of these plants are not suited for areas.
Video explanation of Geothermal energy:
Is Geothermal Energy good for the environment?
Yes! Geothermal energy is a renewable resource so it reduces the amount of fossil fuels we use, which reduces the amount of greenhouse gases we produce. Geothermal energy also produces little to no pollution.
Geothermal energy is also economically beneficial. It not only provides jobs, but it is also 80% more cost effective than using fossil fuels. It reduces our dependence on fossil fuels.
Is Geothermal Energy bad for the environment?
Unfortunately it can be but not as much as non-renewable resources. The water that is pumped underground can be influenced by dangerous chemicals that can seep from the earth’s crust.
Geothermal energy can be more inconvenient rather than environmentally detrimental. Some areas aren’t suited to pump water underground. And although this energy is cost-effective compared to fossil fuels, the cost to design, build, and staff these plants is very expensive.
Which Countries Produce and Use Geothermal Energy?
Many countries in the world have begun producing geothermal energy, the three largest producers being the United States (3,086 MW), the Philippines, and Indonesia. The worldwide capacity of geothermal electricity production is about 10,715 MW, with about 10 countries producing the vast majority of that energy. As a percentage of total electricity use, Iceland is the largest user of geothermal electricity (almost 30% of total electricity is produced geothermally!). 100% of their total electricity is renewable; the other 70% is hydroelectric.