Where Can Geothermal Energy Be Found?
Geothermal Energy is a source of energy that has been in use constantly in recent years. It is a comprehensive concept but not a technical one. Geothermal energy has been around for some time now but is being used highly in the 21st century.
This article will explain what geothermal energy is, where it is in use, where you can find it, and the pros and cons of using geothermal energy.
Geothermal energy occurs in the hydrothermal resources areas. These areas are usually deep underground. One cannot detect these areas above the ground level. Geothermal energy reaches the earth surface in three forms:
– Volcanoes (the holes form in the Earth and volcanic gases are released)
– Geysers, and
– Hot springs
Most of the geothermal energy is close to the tectonic plates of the Earth’s surface. It is an area where volcanoes are situated. The most active geothermal region in the globe is known as the Ring of Fire. The Ring of Fire is around the Pacific Ocean.
There are various methods that Geologists use to locate and find geothermal reservoirs. But in this blog post, we are going to focus on the overall aspect of geothermal energy. Read further and find out some jaw-dropping facts about geothermal energy.
What is Geothermal Energy?
Geothermal is a Greek word with “Geo,” meaning Earth, and “thermos,” meaning heat. Geothermal energy is renewable energy. It occurs in the core of the Earth. It comes from the heat generated during the formation of the globe and the radioactive decay of various materials.
The variation between Earth’s core temperature and the surface leads to unstoppable thermal energy conduction. It occurs from the center to the exteriors of the Earth.
The temperature of 4000 degrees C results in the melting of the rock located in the Earth’s center. And this leads to the formation of molten rocks known as magma. This heat also changes the mantle into plastic, and it starts convecting in the upward direction.
It happens since it is usually lighter than the other rocks that are surrounding it. The rock and the water present in the crust of the Earth typically reach around 370 degrees of heat. Thermal energy in the rocks is present in the depths and several miles below the Earth’s surface.
How is Geothermal Energy Used?
Geothermal energy, as discussed, is the energy that occurs due to the heat of the Earth. It is used as a renewable source of energy and for cooling & heating applications.
The geothermal R&D (Research and Development) is the funding of the U.S Department of Energy. It helps increase the growth of the geothermal industries and the fast adoption of geothermal technologies by public and private sectors.
In 2021, the United States will be leading the world in the field of installing geothermal. It is more than 3.7 gigawatts.
With the continued success of research and development and industry adoptions, geothermal energy can meet 10% of the United States electricity demand.
Geothermal energy has been in use in a few countries for several years now. They have been using this energy for cooking as well as heating purposes.
The geothermal reservoirs of steam and heated water on the Earth’s surface come into use for heating, cooling, and electricity generation.
One such example related to cooling and heating is when a geothermal pump is engraved ten feet under the ground. The pipes underground are complete with water or a solution that is antifreeze.
You need to pump the water around a closed pipe loop. This pump mechanism helps keep the buildings cool in the summer and maintains a certain level of warmth in the summer season. It happens when the Earth’s heat is absorbed as water circulates back again in the building.
Greenhouses also use geothermal water to aid in plant growth and heating purposes in homes and business centers. You can also use it to pipe underground to melt snow in freezing winters.
How is Geothermal Energy Produced?
Well is drilled into underground reservoirs, which are a mile or deeper. People usually do this to tap the geothermal resources.
One can extract these geothermal resources from the enhanced geothermal systems or through naturally occurring heat, water, and rock permeability. The process known as hydraulic stimulation enhances or creates geothermal resources.
And the geothermal resources, natural and enhanced, usually drive turbines linking them to electricity generators.
The first instance was when people used geothermal heat to generate/produce electricity. It took place in 1904 in Larderello, Italy. But, geothermal heat has been in use since the Palaeolithic age. Wherein people used it for bathing purposes.
In Japan, Monkeys have also been using heated water from the hot springs to keep themselves warm during the winter season in the mountain regions.
Where can you find geothermal energy/power plants?
Geothermal power plants often draw from the resources of steam present in the Earth’s underground. The smoke travels directly from the wells in the underground up to the power plant.
From this point, it travels to the generator unit. In the U.S, there are two types of underground steam resources, namely:
– Yellowstone National Park is in Wyoming. Here, there’s also a renowned geyser known as Old Faithful.
– The geysers in North California
Yellowstone National Park
And since Yellowstone in Wyoming is currently devoid of any developments, the single dry stem plant in the U.S is the geysers in North California.
The U.S is the world’s leading generator of electricity through geothermal energy. As per studies, there were seven major states that had geothermal power plants.
The seven power plants produced around 17 billion kWh of electricity. The seven states with high geothermal energy capacity are namely California, Nevada, Hawaii, Oregon, Idaho, and New Mexico.
The geothermal plants in the United States are located more towards the west. These are the major parts of western states and Hawaii.
In these two regions mainly, geothermal resources are pretty close to the Earth’s surface. California is known to radiate the maximum electricity via geothermal energy.
Most part of the geothermal area is in south-central California, beneath the city of Niland and Calipatria. There were fifteen power plants that were generating high voltage electricity in this particular area.
Nevada, Idaho (southwestern), Arizona, and Utah (western) are the areas developing into geothermal regions.
The well-known geothermal power plants located in Nevada are:
- McGinnis Hills facility (has the capacity of 96 MW)
- Dixie Valley
- Steamboat Springs
- Desert Peak
The future of geothermal energy seems to flourish in the United States. The electricity production from geothermal energy is increasing every year due to the introduction of new technologies in the current years in numerous locations.
Geothermal power plants make use of steam to generate electricity. It originates from the reservoirs of boiling water.
Hot water flows from underneath the Earth’s surface. With the help of the smoke, the turbine rotates, and a generator is activated. And this produces electricity. The geothermal power plants are flash steam and binary cycle.
Flash steam geothermal power plants are the most commonly found power plants. It uses a reservoir of water with a more significant temperature of 360 degrees Fahrenheit. It flows under its pressure through the wells in the underground.
As the steam moves upwards, there is a decrease in pressure. And during this whole process, a proportion of the hot water evaporates into vapor.
The smoke is then separated from water and brought into use to fuel power in a turbine. The leftover water and the steam, if any, are put back again in the reservoir. And it makes up a sustainable resource.
Binary system power plants function in lower temperatures of 225-360 degrees Fahrenheit. These plants use the heat of the boiling water to boil an organic compound by using a low boiling point.
This fluid is then vaporized and used to operate a turbine. The water is injected into the ground again to let it reheat. Water and liquid are situated away from each other during the entire process to avoid air emissions.
As of now, to generate electricity, the two variants of resources is used in these power plants that is,
– Low temperature/ co-produced resources
– Enhanced geothermal systems or EGS
Enhanced Geothermal Systems
The enhanced geothermal system aids geothermal power by going deep and tapping the geothermal resources of the Earth. These resources may not be economical due to the lack of water, rock type, and location.
Few studies in the U.S have shown that approximately 500,000 megawatts of EGS are in the U.S.
Low-Temperature or Co-Produced Resources
Low-temperature or co-produced resources are available at 300F or less. Few resources which are low in temperature are in use to produce electricity by the binary cycle method.
It is a byproduct of gas and oil wells situated in the U.S. It is examined to its revolutionary potential to generate electricity, help decrease greenhouse emissions and increase the span of gas and oil fields.
Pros and Cons of Geothermal Energy
The pros of using geothermal energy and resources are as follows:
1. Geothermal Energy is Environmental-Friendly
Geothermal energy is highly environment-friendly. It is better than other conventional fuel sources like fossil fuels. The carbon footprint of geothermal plants is also comparatively low. It causes some level of pollution, but it is less than fossil fuels and coal.
2. Renewable source of energy
Geothermal energy is a renewable energy source. It will last 5 billion years even after the Earth gets destroyed by the Sun. Hot reservoirs naturally replenish and hence make them sustainable as well as renewable.
3. Geothermal energy has a Huge Potential.
The overall energy consumed worldwide is around 15 terawatts. It is too far from the overall potential energy that is generated from geothermal sources.
Yes, we can’t use the reservoirs right now, but there is a possibility that the geothermal resources might increase with research and development in the industry. As per estimation, geothermal power plants can give up to 2 terawatts of power.
As per estimation, geothermal power plants could provide between 0.0035 and 2 terawatts of power.
4. It is Sustainable
Geothermal energy gives a more sustainable/ stable energy source, for example, solar power and wind. The reason behind this is because you can tap it.
5. Heating and Cooling
Effectively using geothermal energy for electricity generation requires a water temperature of more than 150 degrees Celsius to move the turbines.
As an alternative to this, the difference of surface and ground source can be utilized. As the ground is resistant to seasonal changes, it can function as a heat source.
6. It is Reliable
You can calculate the energy from a geothermal resource very quickly as it doesn’t change as other energy sources do, such as wind and solar. It signifies that with a high accuracy degree, anyone can predict the output of a geothermal plant.
7. No Fuel is needed
Unlike fossil fuels that require mining and extraction, you do not need to fuel geothermal energy as it is a naturally occurring resource.
8. Evolution of geothermal energy
Geothermal energy is being explored highly during the current times. It means that technologies are being created to enhance the process of energy.
The number of projects is increasing day by day to improve this industry. This evolution will also mitigate numerous disadvantages of geothermal energy.
Stone desert at geothermal area Hverir, Iceland
The cons of using geothermal energy are as follows:
1. Restricted in few locations
The utmost con of geothermal energy is that many regions restrict its usage. People must build geothermal power plants in areas that have easy access to points.
It means that few sites are unable to exploit geothermal resources. It is a massive problem for people who reside in places where geothermal energy is quickly accessible.
2. Environmental Side Effects
Geothermal energy doesn’t emit greenhouse gases. But, various gases are present on the Earth’s surfaces that are emitted while digging the Earth.
Such gases are naturally released in the Earth’s atmosphere; the velocity usually is high with geothermal plants. The gas emission is still lower than that of fossil fuel gases.
3. Risk of Earthquakes
Geothermal energy has the chance of causing earthquakes. It happens because of the changes that take place due to excessive digging in the Earth’s surface.
It is a more common problem with geothermal power plants that generally pressurize water into the Earth’s crust. But usually, these plants are situated far from the populated localities and have a minor effect on humans.
4. High Costs
Geothermal energy costs around $2-$7 million for a 1-megawatt capacity plant and are a costly renewable resource. But, it doesn’t matter if the upfront costs are incredibly high; it still is a long-term investment.
To maintain the sustainability of geothermal energy, one needs to be pumping back the fluid quickly in the underground reservoirs. It signifies that geothermal energy has to be appropriately managed to maintain sustainability.
Businesses need to examine the pros and cons of geothermal energy to take note of the advantages while fighting and finding solutions to potential problems.
Is geothermal energy value for money?
Yes. As mentioned earlier, the geothermal power plant can be costly, but it is a long-term investment and emits abundant energy compared to other renewable resources.
They work 400 percent better than the different energy sources. Geothermal energy is excellent for the environment as well. It will also decrease your energy bill.
Using geothermal energy is a great way to start your eco-friendly and environmentally friendly journey. These small lifestyle changes will finally make a significant difference on the planet.
It’s great to see that you are willing to live a sustainable life. It all starts at home. Go ahead and inspire your friends and family to choose this path too. It is an excellent initiative that you could ever take. Livelywatt family is proud of you! Keep going!