Geothermal literally means earth heat and when you talk of natural, greener power, the advantages of geothermal energy provide powerful hope for the future.
What is Geothermal Energy
Take a moment and think of the last volcano you saw in action on a television show. You are witness to geothermal energy at its height of uncontrolled power. Imagine that power channeled and put to use heating homes or providing electricity. It is not a bright spot off in the horizon of energy usage; geothermal energy is already harnessed and in use in some places around the world.
Geothermal energy is natural energy, naturally made, and energy that is available to be enhanced and funneled to provide electricity and heat for many parts of the world. Geothermal heat exists at the core of the Earth, well over 4,000 miles below the surface we inhabit. As rock breaks down over time at the core, radioactive particles decay making temperatures of increasing degree. The heat and steam rise up and breaks forth in the form of volcanic activity at various places around the earth where plates (or pieces of broken earth) come together in the form of magma, lava that is partially made up of magma, and hot water and steam.
People actually have used the advantages of geothermal energy for hundreds of years, often by digging very deep wells and pumping the hot water and steam to the surface for use. Many natural hot water spas or springs around the world have been used for centuries and are products of man's elementary attempts to channel the energy. People have also used the natural juncture points as places to cook their food and heat their homes going back in history several thousands of years.
Where In the World is Geothermal Energy
Geothermal energy plants exist in New Zealand, Iceland, Japan, Norway, Sweden and the United States. Italy was the first place in the world to have a geothermal energy plant. The process of building wells and storage containers to reach the steam energy is an interesting process. This process will prove even more so as science and technology go on exploring new natural sites, and think of ways to provide this energy to other parts of the world.
The Geothermal Power Plant
The building principles of a geothermal power plant are straightforward.
- Wells are drilled to the reach deep into the earth and access the magma - the hot fluid. Sometimes additional wells are created nearby to send cool water down to help produce the necessary steam if there is not sufficient ground water.
- Containment chambers hold the tapped fluid and filter it to purify it as much as possible.
- The resulting steam move turbines, which in turn drive electric generators producing geothermal power.
The Advantages of Geothermal Energy
- It is natural occurring.
- It does not create pollution; it does add to the greenhouse effect.
- No fuel is needed.
- Geothermal plants themselves after being built do not require massive amounts of energy themselves. The geothermal energy produced also runs the pumps from the filtering systems and the containment systems.
- Geothermal energy does not run out; there is never a question of true supply and demand, thus the price of geothermal energy is far less expensive than other forms of energy.
- The system used to utilize the geothermal energy in the home can last it is estimated between 50 to 200 years (Wise Geek.com).
- The system may be expensive but many governments give tax credits to those who install the system, and the costs are recouped in energy savings over several years, as opposed to twenty or thirty years.
- Geothermal energy releases only a slight amount of carbon dioxide and up to 97 percent less acid rain emissions. (See Wise Geek.com)
Geothermal energy has its advantages and with improved methods of locating hot spots and of drilling techniques, we may see this power source become a major source of energy for generations to come.