As we look to alternative energy sources for our power hungry world, geothermal energy is getting attention. Here is a brief overview of geothermal energy.
Overview of Geothermal Energy
There are many different types of energy available to power our world. For years, people have used the power of burning fossil fuels, such as coal (also used to produce steam power) to create energy. In recent times, there has been a shift to using renewable resources to create the energy we need. These resources include hydroelectric power, solar power, wind power, biomass energy and geothermal energy. While many people know about the first four of these resources, geothermal energy is less well-known.
The word geothermal comes from two Greek words, “geo” and “therme”. These words mean “earth” and “heat”, which pretty much describes what geothermal energy is. Geothermal energy is energy that comes from the heat of the Earth, deep underground. The Earth’s core, where chemical reactions create massive amounts of heat, is 4,000 miles below the Earth’s surface. In this core, temperatures can reach up to 9,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and this extreme heat can be used to produce energy.
While these are the basics of geothermal energy, there are many other parts in the process to make this sort of energy usable. We can’t tap directly into the Earth’s core to receive this heat, for many reasons. So instead, people must create systems that harness the residual heat that is in the magma (molten rock) under the Earth’s crust. This heat is able to be used by tapping into the water reservoirs that are within the magma – these water stores can reach up to 700 degrees Fahrenheit. Think of Old Faithful in Yellowstone.
A well can be drilled down into the superheated water contained within the Earth’s magma – the geothermal reservoir. Once these geothermal reservoirs are tapped into, the heated water and steam can rise to the surface, and be used to power geothermal power plants as well as in smaller scale projects for personal household use. When used in geothermal power plants, the steam from the heated underground water is often used to power turbines, which then generate energy which can be harnessed as electricity.
By using the Earth’s own heat and water, energy can be created that can be used on a small or large scale. This renewable resource (you can’t deplete the Earth’s heat!) is also cleaner and safer than many other types of energy, making it a great type of ecologically sound energy source.