How to generate geothermal electricity
Geothermal energy is a safe, clean, sustainable resource that occurs naturally within the Earth. It consists of heat that is trapped below the surface of the planet, which, when released and properly harnessed, can be used to create electricity. It has two major sources: first, geothermal energy comes from primordial heat, which resulted from the Earth's formation billions of years ago. Second, it comes from the decay of radioactive elements. Negligible amounts of geothermal power also come from solar heat which gets trapped beneath the Earth's surface.
While geothermal power has been in use since ancient times, it is only thanks to advances in modern technology that it is now viable for widespread residential use. For many years, it was only cost-effective to generate geothermal electricity around the Earth's tectonic plates, but this is no longer the case.
How Geothermal Energy Sources Work
Several different techniques are used to harvest geothermal energy, depending on the scale of the operation. For residential buildings and small businesses, a heat pump, air delivery unit and a system of buried pipes are used to transport geothermal heat from the Earth to the point of use.
Geothermal power plants typically tap into deep wells and subterranean reservoirs, harnessing the hot water and/or steam below the Earth's surface to supply generators and turbines with enough power to create geothermal electricity. It is also possible, but not optimally cost-effective, to harvest energy trapped in hot dry rocks.
In the future, geothermal energy technology may focus on extracting the massive amounts of heat stored in the Earth's magma, which currently cannot be exploited but have the potential to yield enormous amounts of clean, safe, sustainable energy.
Applications of Geothermal Power
For residences, geothermal heating and cooling are the primary uses of this plentiful natural resource. There are two systems used to harness geothermal power for these applications: ducts and radiant floor heating tubes. While the installation costs are initially higher than comparable alternatives, geothermal energy has the potential to save a lot of money on your energy bills in the long run.
Geothermal energy efficiency is very high, compared to heating with a regular propane furnace or cooling your home with a conventional air conditioner. Some geothermal energy companies claim that you can save as much as 50 percent or more off the cost of your home heating and cooling by installing a geothermal system.