In this article I’ll be teaching you about what this type of energy is as well as providing you with some interesting facts about geothermal energy.
What is geothermal energy?
In its most simple form, geothermal energy is simply heat that is stored deep inside the earth. This heat is very intense and when harnessed, it can be used for a variety of purposes ranging from heating water and buildings to generating electricity.
The History Of Geothermal Energy
Perhaps one of the earliest uses of this type of energy has been in use for thousands of years and that is bathing in natural hot springs. From the dawn of time, people have been making use of natures hot springs as both a source of bathing and healing.
How Does Geothermal Energy Work?
When this type of energy is used naturally without any intervention from man, it is because the natural cracks and fissures in the earth’s crust expose ground water to the intense heat that is stored deep within the earth. Most ground water is cool to the touch but when conditions are just right, ground water will become quite hot.
Human beings have learned to harness this free energy by drilling deep wells into natural hot spots in the earth. Electricity can be produced from this source of energy in what are known as geothermal power plants. There are three types of power plants that are used to generate electricity.
- The first type is the “dry steam power plant”. In these applications, steam at temperatures of at least 150°C from geothermal wells is harnessed directly to run steam turbines.
- The second type is the “flash steam power plant”. These plants harness water that is at least 180°C from geothermal wells. This water is fed under high pressure into lower holding tanks. When this hot water hits these tanks, it “flashes” into steam that is used to drive steam turbines.
- The third type is the “binary cycle power plant”. These plants route the hot water from the earth past a sealed chamber of another type of liquid that has a boiling point that is much lower than water. This causes the other liquid to instantly flash into steam which is used to drive steam turbines.
How Is Geothermal Energy Used
I’ve just explained how this type of energy is used to generate electricity but it is used in other ways as well. It can be used on machines called geothermal heat pumps to heat water for use in bathing or cleaning. It can also be used to heat either a home or other buildings of various sizes.
Interesting Geothermal Energy Facts
- According to the International Geothermal Association (IGA), 10,715 megawatts is currently being generated in 24 countries around the world.
- In 2010 the US led the world in overall production of geothermal electricity with 3,086 megawatts of installed capacity from 77 plants.
- In 1900, my own town, Klamath Falls Oregon installed America’s second district geothermal heating system. The first was in Boise Idaho.
- Next to the United States, the Philippines is the highest producer of this form of electricity at 1,904 megawatts of output capacity.
- Approximately 18% of US energy is generated by geothermal plants.
- New binary cycle power plants can generate electricity with water that is only 57°C when previously temperatures of at least 150°C were needed.
- As much as half of the cost of setting up this type of a power plant is in the drilling process.
- A typical geothermal well that is capable of producing 4 1/2 megawatts of electricity costs around ten million dollars to drill.
- Around twenty percent of all geothermal wells that are drilled aren’t useable.
- These types of power plants can be built to accommodate either small villages or large cities.
- The Chevron corporation owns the worlds largest private geothermal power plant.
Now that you know a few interesting geothermal facts, you might be interested in reading some other articles that I have written about this type of energy. These articles are Is Geothermal Energy Renewable or Nonrenewable and Advantages and Disadvantages of Geothermal Energy.