Why Is Geothermal Energy Considered a Renewable Resource?

We hear the words renewable energy sources quite a lot lately. That is because people are making a collective effort to save our planet from further pollution, climate change, and global warming. These renewable sources of energy are given this name because of three main reasons. First, they make use of elements found in nature. Secondly, these elements will never run out, and thirdly, nature will naturally replenish them after we use them. Geothermal energy too fits into this category. Today, we are going to explore why is geothermal energy considered a renewable resource. To that purpose, we will be looking at what exactly geothermal energy is, where we can find it, how we extract it, and why it is a great renewable energy source for our environment. Let’s begin!

Why Is Geothermal Energy Considered a Renewable Resource?

What Is Geothermal Energy?

If we were to translate the word geothermal, we would literally get the earth’s heat. So geothermal energy is basically energy we draw from the heat that we find in the earth. The earth’s core is almost as hot as the surface of the sun, which is around 5,500 degrees centigrade. It’s no wonder then that people have considered using this heat to provide them with power.

Where Can We Find Geothermal Energy?

Unfortunately, the answer is not everywhere. Not all places in the world have enough heat in the earth’s surface to create energy. Of course, there are places where the earth’s heat is visible to the naked eye as well, such as volcanoes, geysers, hot springs, or fumaroles. However, most of the energy in the earth is so deep that the only way in which we can know if it exists or not is to drill the earth’s surface and measure the temperature.

We usually find geothermal energy close to tectonic plate boundaries, where we also find most volcanoes and earthquakes. For instance, we call the area encircling the Pacific Ocean the “Ring of Fire”, precisely because of so much geothermal energy we can find in that spot. In the case of the U.S., western states make the most use of geothermal energy, with California taking the lead.

How Do We Extract Geothermal Energy?

We extract geothermal energy by tapping into the aforementioned areas where the earth’s surface heats up water. This water raises to the surface, which is when humans can capture the steam created by it to power electric generators. How do humans capture this steam, you ask? Well, by building geothermal power plants.

illustration of how a geothermal power plant works

Now, these power plants can be of three kinds. However, they all pull up steam and hot water that they use and later return to the earth’s surface as warm water. These three types are: dry steam, flash, and binary. Which one you choose to use depends on the source from which you want to collect the hot water and steam.

Why Is Geothermal Energy Considered a Renewable Resource?

Finally, we have reached the most relevant part of our guide to geothermal energy, which is answering the question “Why is geothermal energy considered a renewable resource?” The first and most logical reason to this question is that geothermal energy is renewable because the earth constantly replenishes its own heat. You might ask yourself where does all this heat come from? The answer is quite simple.

Energy Production

A lot of the earth’s heat is still here from four-and-a-half billion years… Click to Tweet
…Moreover, even though the earth is cooling, it is doing that extremely slowly. That is because the heat that it disposes of is almost equal to that which it actually produces in turn. Yes, the earth also produces heat inside of it. This process is called radioactive decay. It is mainly about the disintegration of the earth’s uranium, which produces heat.

illustration of the earth's heat flow

Energy Consumption

Now that you know how much heat the earth actually contains, it is rather understandable why people consider geothermal energy a renewable source. Apart from constantly producing heat, the earth also consumes some of it through natural processes such as volcanic activity. However, these processes consume much less energy than the earth actually has or creates, so the difference is minimal.

CO2 Emissions 

Apart from the fact that it is renewable, geothermal energy is also environmental-friendly. It does not emit as many greenhouse gases as traditional energy sources such as the burning of coal and fossil fuels. That is not to say that the process of extracting hot water and steam coming from the earth’s surface does not release any CO2 in the environment. Every megawatt-hour that a geothermal power plant produces electricity, it also releases about 197 lbs of CO2. If that seems like a lot, consider that the average coal power plant releases 2200 lbs CO2 per megawatt-hour.

General Trivia

Furthermore, geothermal power plants don’t take up a lot of space. They also don’t require a lot of water, like in the case of other sources of energy. Which means that they doesn’t interfere with human activity much, nor do they consume a lot of the earth’s resources. However, one thing to remember is that building geothermal power plants on certain areas on land can lead to a decreased stability of said area. This could, in turn, cause unwanted activity such as earthquakes.

After the initial investment in building the power plants, they don’t require a lot of maintenance. We can successfully use them for more than 30 years. This interesting trivia also contributes to our understanding of geothermal energy as a renewable energy source. Furthermore, in the case of solar and wind energy, one can never be sure that during a longer period of cloudy days, or in days when the wind is not blowing as hard, we will be able to make use of these types of energy. When it comes to geothermal energy, no matter what changes in the environment, the earth will always contain heat deep inside its surface.

Summing It All Up

Through today’s guide, we hope we managed to successfully answer the question “Why is geothermal energy considered a renewable resource?” Always remember that when you’re in doubt whether a type of energy is renewable or not, you should focus on those three characteristics: making use of elements found in nature, the elements will never run out, and nature will naturally replenish them after we use them. If any energy source fulfills all of these requirements, then it is indeed renewable. Geothermal energy, as we managed to prove today, is definitely one of them.

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William E. Eubanks

I'm one of the main writers on the site; mostly dealing with environmental news and ways to live green. My goal is to educate others about this great planet, and the ways we can help to protect it.

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