Geothermal Energy Facts
For many centuries geothermal power was used by people in the places where it was available. This is a kind of energy that comes from the inside of the Earth and is stored in the fluid and rock somewhere beneath the crust of the Earth. In some places it is located close to the surface and in others it is somewhere right next to magma, very deep under the Earth.
Nowadays people have learned to use the energy of this alterative power source more effectively than just for cooking and individual heating. With the help of geothermal heat pumps the hot water is easily accessed and then put to use in order to generate electricity which is further used in many ways.
With the help of geothermal heat pump system it is possible to heat the house I winter as well as to cool it to some extent in summer. The access of about 3 meters into the Earth’s surface is enough to do so.
The access to deeper waters allows heating larger places such as offices and blocks of houses as well as industrial objects such as greenhouses and in the U.S. the system is used to help snow melt on the roads. In some places it is necessary to create a well as deep as 1.6 into the Earth’s surface to get to the hot underground waters to be able to make the steam and water to move upward and drive turbines and generators.
Nowadays geothermal power plants are divided into three types:
- dry steam geothermal power plants,
- flash geothermal power plants,
- binary geothermal power plants.
Dry steam plants refer to the oldest industry in this sphere. This technology presupposes taking the steam right out of the fractures in the ground. It is then directly used to drive the turbines.
Flash geothermal power plants work in a different way. The technology presupposes that the steam used for driving turbines appears as the result of cooling hot waters with high pressure and making them low-pressure.
Binary plants yet again sue another technology – hot water there is mixed with some fluid with pretty much lower boiling point. As a result, the secondary fluid turns into steam and this very steam is used to drive turbines. At the present moment the former two are steadily giving way to binary plants.
Currently the power of geothermal resources is broadly used and there more than 20 countries that actively work with this alternative energy source. One of the largest producers of geothermal energy is the U.S. with its developments in California which is well-known for its Geysers in the northern region of San Francisco. Iceland is yet another country that uses a lot of geothermal energy and it is quite understandable why. The country has got about 25 active volcanoes and endless number of various geysers and hot springs. It is natural that they learned to use geothermal energy everywhere.
The advantages are numerous. One of the most crucial is that this energy source does provide energy without actually harming the environment. There is no need to burn fossil fuels and thus no waste is emitted into the atmosphere. If you compare the production of CO2 by geothermal plants with the production of a traditional fossil-fuelled plant, the former produces only 1/6 of the latter’s potential. When it comes to binary plants, they actually do not emit any waste al all into the atmosphere. One more benefit is that this kind of energy is available all the time as opposed to that of the wind, for instance. It is also much more cost-effective in all the ways.
Surely, there are drawbacks as well. The first and foremost of them is the problem of hydrogen sulfide release. It has got the unpleasant smell of rotten eggs and this makes the problem of such plants’ location quite actual. Notwithstanding the fact that geothermal resources for energy are safer, there still is the question of some toxic materials disposal. Even though the levels of toxicity are low, they need to be disposed nevertheless. Besides, it is also possible that some geothermal locations will cool down with time and the question of reserve resource is relevant in this respect.