How Does Geothermal Energy Work and What Are Its Benefits?

Geothermal energy is often overlooked in the discussion of clean energy sources. Here is a brief description of how it works and the good it can do for us.

How Does Geothermal Energy Work?

Geothermal energy refers to the heat within the Earth’s crust. The Earth’s core is extremely hot and a liquid and magma heats up the rocks and reservoirs of water within the crust. Some of the heat escapes to the surface in hot springs, volcanoes, and geysers. Geothermal power plants drill down to the hot water (or inject water to be heated) and use the created steam to power turbines to generate electricity. (Find more in-depth information here.)

What Are Its Benefits?

1. Renewable and Stable

Geothermal energy is constantly generating more heat and is expected to do so for billions of years. Properly managed power plants are estimated to provide consistent amounts of power for over 100 years. They are also able to consistently generate power, both day and night. This is unlike wind and solar energy, which relies on certain weather conditions.

2. Offers Heating and Cooling

In the cooler months, geothermal energy is able to bring heat from beneath the Earth’s surface to your home to warm it up. In the summer, this energy can also cool your home. This is because the crust is a stable temperature and the system will draw warm temperatures out of your home to stabilize it.

3. Significant Long-Term Savings

Though pricey when it comes to the initial investment, geothermal energy saves money in the long run. Because the majority of the system for your home is underground and does not have moving parts, they rarely need maintenance. The savings will easily pay for the price of the system.

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What Are Its Cons?

1. Geographically Limited

Geothermal energy is easier to harness in areas that have heat closer to the surface. These areas include hot spots and tectonic plate boundaries because they often have larger geothermal reservoirs. Other places, where the heat is further down from the surface, are often not worth the investment for a small return on energy.

2. Causes Minor Earthquakes

Drilling for geothermal reservoirs creates instability in the crust. When pressurized water is shot into the Earth, it alters the structure of the land the geothermal plant sits on. Many of the plants are located on tectonic plate boundaries, which are already prone to seismic activity. Most of the earthquakes caused are small, but not all of them.

3. Needs Proper Management

If geothermal reservoirs are overused, geothermal energy can be depleted from the area. In order to have consistent energy, we have to manage our plants so that we do not consume energy faster than it is replaced. Many researchers are continuing to study this form of energy so we can use it more efficiently.

Conclusion

Geothermal energy will most likely not meet all of our energy needs. It is merely another renewable source available to us. Combining the different kinds of energy can help us reduce the number of fossil fuels we use and thus reduce harmful emissions.

Image Source: Pixabay

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Lacey Jolley
 

I love exploring, experiencing new places, and eating good food! I'm amazed every day at how well the Earth provides for us, and I want to return the favor. I hope to help others learn how we can make our world a better, cleaner place.

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