In the modern world, the pressure to be more environmentally concerned has increased more and more as time draws on. As we recognise the need for action, we are constantly looking for new renewable energy sources as well as historical renewable energy sources such as geothermal energy.
Understanding how these energy sources work and what benefits they have to us is a necessary step to becoming carbon neutral and generally being more aware of sustainable alternative energy sources. We have made this simply and easy for you so that you can continue to make informed decisions that benefit the environment.
What is geothermal energy?
Geothermal energy is a renewable source of energy that utilises the heat which originates within the earth’ crust. This energy is thought to come from the formation of the planet and the decay of radioactive materials.
The Greek etymology explains it best: ‘geo’ meaning earth, and ‘thermós’ meaning heat, earth heat – that’s right, and with that heat we can transfer the energy into other forms such as electricity, this is known as geothermal power.
This sounds wild but is pretty easy to understand. One example you may recognise is the Blue Lagoon in southwest Iceland. This is a geothermal spa, or pool, that is naturally heated by the lava field which is part of. The water used in the spa is also used in the nearby Svartsengi geothermal power station.
Geothermal power has been utilised since the dawn of man and is one of the earliest forms of renewable energy that has been recorded. This reduced somewhat when research started to look for other alternatives, however the cost of geothermal energy has decreased greatly with technological advancements and has started to become popular once more.
Theoretically, scientists believe that there is technically enough energy stored in the earth’s crust to supply all of society’s energy needs yet only a fraction is being utilised by humans right now.
What are the advantages of geothermal energy?
Here are some reasons why geothermal energy is such a syndicated source of renewable energy and why it is emerging again in the sustainable energy conversation:
- It’s a ‘silent’ energy – This might seem obvious, but even when a geothermal plant is working at full power, heat to electricity as an energy transfer is totally silent. This means that geothermal power plants can sit nicely in a suburban or metropolitan environment and remain fairly unseen and definitely unheard. This makes it much easier to get planning permission for these types of plants. Moreover, this means it’s very easy to install domestic systems also.
- Huge amounts of space isn’t required – Another great advantage is that most of the mechanisms and components that make up a geothermal plant, in both domestic and industrial settings, are mainly buried underground. This gets rid of having to buy up acres of land in order to install eye-sore wind turbines. Geothermal power plants have the advantage of being small enough, or underground enough, not to be a huge eye sore and not to require lots of space.
- It’s always available – This is perhaps the biggest thing worth realising about geothermal energy, that it is almost always there. For example and common problem with wind and solar energy is that they only work during certain conditions such as when it is sunny or windy. This isn’t the case with geothermal energy, no matter when you want energy it is available around the clock. Moreover, this is also a case of how much energy a geothermal plant can produce. While a solar power plant can only produce around 2000 hours of energy a year, a geothermal plant can produce almost 8500 hours of energy a year, and as there are only around 8700 hours per year anyway, you could describe production of energy as constant.
- Can run at full-capacity permanently – For the reasons described in the previous advantage, geothermal power is constant. Because geothermal power is constant this means that the plant can run at full capacity for as long as it needs to, maintenance issues aside.
- Encourages energy and material recycling – Firstly, most components used in the plant will be reusable when the plant is over. They can often be recycled if unusable or used at another plant. Furthermore, any heat that is created as a by-product of energy transfer is often recycled back into the circuit and is used again to create electricity or other energy. It can be said that geothermal energy optimises the resources of a plant better than any other renewable energy.
- Creates a lot of jobs – Due to the nature of the monitoring and maintenance of a geothermal plant, it creates a lot of jobs that encourage environmentalism. An Italian study found that 200 gigawatts of geothermal energy created would in turn create employment for 400 people and indirectly create 30000 potential other jobs.
- Geothermal plants last a long time and are safe – Domestic installation of geothermal power as well as industrial plants have the potential to stand for over 80 years and still reliably create power. This is much longer than your traditional boiler or heating system. Not the least, geothermal plants and boilers are often very safe as no fuel or gas is involved, only heat transfer. For similar reasons, these plants often require little maintenance due to most systems being self regulating.
- Can cool as well as create heat – Unsurprisingly, the heat created in geothermal plants can easily be turned into cooling air. This means that there are more advantages within domestic settings as they can provide air conditioning as well as heating, reducing a house’s energy usage by 30-70%.
The Final Word
As you can see, there are many reasons why geothermal energy is becoming more and more popular and as our technology and engineering advances we can be sure that the acquisition of geothermal power can only become more streamlined, safe, reliable, and effective. There are many reasons here that set geothermal energy apart from other renewable energy sources we currently rely on.