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A Little About Geothermal Energy Primer

As we look to alternate power sources for our power hungry world, geothermal energy is getting attention. Here is a quick helicopter view of geothermal energy.

Top level view of Geothermal Energy

There are many differing kinds of energy available to power our world. For years , folks have utilized the power of burning normal fuels, for example coal (also used to provide steam power) to create energy. Recently, there’s been a shift to using replenish-able resources to create the energy we need. These resources include hydroelectric power, solar energy, wind power, biomass energy and geothermal energy. While many people know about the first 4 of these resources, geothermal energy is less well known.

The word geothermal comes from 2 Greek words, “geo” and “therme”. These words mean “earth” and “heat”, which just about describes what geothermal energy is. Geothermal energy is energy that comes from the heat of the Earth, deep underground. The Earth’s core, where chemical reactions create big amounts of heat, is 4,000 miles below the Earth’s surface. In this core, temperatures can reach up to 9,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and this extreme heat can produce energy.

While these are the basics of geothermal energy, there are several other parts in the process to make this kind of energy usable. We can’t tap right into the Earth’s core to receive this heat, for many reasons. So as an alternative folk must create systems that harness the residual heat that’s in the magma (molten rock) under the Earth’s crust. This heat is able to be utilised by utilizing the water reservoirs that are in the magma? These water stores can reach up to 700 degrees Fahrenheit. Think about Old Devoted in Yellowstone.

A well can be drilled down into the superheated water contained in the Earth’s magma – the geothermal reservoir. Once these geothermal reservoirs are tapped into, the heated water and steam can rise to the surface, and be used to power geothermal power plants as well as in smaller scale projects for personal household use. When employed in geothermal energy generating plants, the steam from the heated underground water is commonly used to power turbines, which then generate energy which can often be harnessed as electricity.

By employing the Earth’s own water and heat, energy can be created that can be used on a tiny or large scale. This replaceable resource (you can’t deplete the Earth’s heat) is also cleaner and safer than many other kinds of energy, making it a great kind of ecologically sound energy source.

Stephen Spreadbury is a professional photographer who’s always on the lookout for a better product or idea for a better earth.

Geothermal Energy

USGS estimates 500,000 MWe of EGS geothermal resource potential lies beneath the western United States. This is approximately half of the current installed electric power generating capacity in the United States. _EERE PDF

The US could be producing 32 million times more geothermal electrical power than it does at present.

The U.S. produces more than 100,000 gigawatt-hours per year of geothermal electricity already, but it could produce as much as 3.2 trillion gigawatt-hours.

…the Earth’s heat never stops—meaning a geothermal power plant can produce electricity as regularly as a nuclear power plant can. And it also has nearly no emissions of the greenhouse gases causing climate change. _SciAm

Geothermal power plants are currently located in areas with natural hot springs and geysers, such as this planned 15MW plant in the US state Nevada.
Enhanced geothermal will be a whole new ballgame. That is where the lion’s share of geothermal power can be tapped, but it will require expensive deep drilling technology which has not yet been perfected for this purpose. It will also require new forms of ultra-deep fracking of hot rock, to enhance deep crustal heat exchange for energy extraction.

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