Our planet’s core is like a giant hearth of superheated gas and molten rock which ‘burns’ at a temperature of 7200 degrees Fahrenheit. This particularly high temperature is the result of decaying radioactive particles within the Earth’s core, a process that has been going on for as long as our planet has existed. It is because of its hot core that our planet’s surface temperature never drops below 10 degrees Celsius, thus one of the reasons why organic and plant life can exist and flourish.
It is called geothermal energy and it sometimes finds its way to the surface via geothermal energy-escapes like steam volcanoes, geysers and hot springs. Thanks to modern technology, we can harness this constant source of natural energy and transform it into electricity for our homes. You see, the amount of thermal energy contained in the Earth’s crust is so large that it is believed to be the equivalent of 15,000 times more than worldwide oil reserves.
Although geothermal resources vary from one location to another, it is believed that geothermal power will become increasingly popular over the next century. Reason being that not only is geothermal energy constantly replenished, but it is also environmentally-friendly and clean. Iceland, for example, generates 25% of its electricity needs from geothermal sources, so it isn’t unlikely that other countries will tap into this seemingly endless source of energy at some point.
The process of exploiting geothermal sources isn’t that complicated really, given how high the temperature is and the fact that they are constantly replenished. Most installations designed to harness geothermal energy use a system of wells drilled into underground reservoirs, from which steam can be send up to a power turbine or a generator. Other such installations use hot water from the reservoirs to boil fluids that vaporize quickly, turning a turbine in the process.
In terms of logistics, it would make sense for us to exploit geothermal energy more and more given the fact that fossil fuels will undoubtedly run out at some point in the future. Not only that, but due to how easy it is to harness this energy, we could provide constant and affordable electricity for millions of households around the world. This being said, it would only be fair to point out some of the pros and cons of geothermal energy to give you a better insight of what it is all about.
It requires no fuel – While most other power plants require coal, gas, or radioactive materials, geothermal energy requires nothing but a well maintained system of pipes to run the water through. No transportation, no mining, and no additional effort whatsoever is required to exploit geothermal sources, making it one of the cheapest sources of energy on the planet.
Renewable – Like we already pointed out, geothermal energy will be around for as long as our planet exists, due to the tremendous amount of hot resources boiling within its core. Scientists around the world agree that geothermal sources could technically be used for at least another 4 to 5 billion years, so no need to worry about running out any time soon. Fossil fuels, on the other hand, are nearing their depletion, making geothermal energy an ideal solution for our future energy problems.
There is plenty of it – Unlike wind or solar power, you do not depend on weather conditions when dealing with geothermal energy. While there is very little chance of harnessing any amount of energy with a solar panel during a cloudy day, with geothermal sources you get a constant stream of heat at all times. Other forms of generating energy require SOME sort of fuel or environmental requirement while geothermal energy is pretty much constant.
It is environmentally friendly – Most power plants throughout the world require either coal, gas, or radioactive materials to generate electricity. With geothermal energy, there is no long-lasting damage to the environment. You see, geothermal energy produces almost zero carbon dioxide or any type of harmful by-product that could affect the environment. It also requires no mining and no transportation of fuel via trucks and trains, making it extremely environmentally friendly.
Can help homeowners save a lot of money – It’s true, geothermal energy can help homeowners make significant savings overall due to being quite versatile. While the initial costs may be a bit pricey, the overall benefits of using geothermal energy are to be considered. This is because geothermal energy can be used for heating and cooling purposes, thus reducing the amount of energy used for heating homes and offices.
Expensive at first – While geothermal energy can prove quite cheap in the long run, the initial costs of getting such a system working might be a bit high for some people. On average, the costs of installing geothermal heat pumps can be as high as $15,000 – 20,000 depending on the company doing the installation. However, these seemingly high expenses can be recovered over time via significant savings as far as electricity use is concerned.
Surface instability – The fact that geothermal power plants cause earthquakes is well documented. When setting up a geothermal power plant, the land structure surrounding the geothermal springs or geysers gets permanently damaged. This is because of a process called ‘hydraulic fracturing’ which is an integral part of setting up large-scale geothermal systems, a process that can trigger earthquakes.
High temperature required – In order to get a geothermal system working, you need the exploited area to be at least 350 degrees Fahrenheit hot. The high-temperature rock can only be used effectively for geothermal purposes if it passes this particular temperature whereas any area cooler than 350 degrees Fahrenheit will provide unsatisfactory results.