4 Incredible Things to Know About Geothermal Energy

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Geothermal energy is on the rise as a source of sustainable, renewable, and clean energy. Geothermal energy has applications that range from single-home heating and cooling to geothermal power plants. Here are four incredible things to know about geothermal energy.

Geothermal Energy Is a Constant Source
Image via Flickr by USDAgov

Geothermal energy is energy that is stored in the earth. Far below the earth's surface, molten rock called magma is created by the extreme heat of the earth's core. Magma sometimes flows to the surface (and is then called lava), but when below the ground it heats water and steam that create geothermal reservoirs. Consequently, a few feet below the earth's surface the temperature stays at a consistent 50 degree Fahrenheit throughout the year.

A combination of utilizing the consistent underground temperature and tapping into geothermal reservoirs make up the majority of the commercial and residential uses of geothermal energy. 

Geothermal Heat Pumps for Heating and Cooling
Commercial and residential properties can both take advantage of the heating and cooling properties of geothermal energy through the use of geothermal heat pumps. Geothermal heat pumps push water (or other liquids) through a series of pipes that run underground and throughout the building. These pipes flow through the 50 degree Fahrenheit layer of earth below the surface, allowing the water to either heat or cool depending on the temperature above ground.

For example, in the winter, the water in the pipes warm underground to 50 degrees Fahrenheit and then distribute that heat throughout the building. In the summer, the water warms as it passes throughout the building and then cools underground.

Benefits to Homeowners and Businesses
Geothermal heat pumps, such as those used in individual houses or commercial spaces, use 25-50 percent less electricity than those used for conventional heating and cooling. Geothermal heat pumps are also low maintenance, and often come with warranties that last 20 years or more. These two efficiencies can decrease utility and maintenance costs over the life of the system.

In addition, there are a variety of different designs for geothermal heat pump systems. These different designs are flexible in how much space they need to operate. Many take up less space than a traditional heating and cooling system.

Geothermal Power Plants
Geothermal power plants are used to convert the earth's underground heat into electricity. This is accomplished by pushing the superheated water and steam from geothermal reservoirs to the earth's surface and using the steam to spin turbines. The turbines generate electricity, which is then fed into the nearby power grid and delivered to homes and businesses.

Geothermal power plants have a couple of advantages over traditional plants powered by fossil fuels. First, they do not produce the greenhouse gasses that are a byproduct of burning fossil fuels. Second, they do not require the same amount of land to build or impact the same amount of natural resources as traditional power generation plans.

Geothermal energy is a renewable, clean power source that can benefit individual homeowners, commercial spaces, and can feed into the existing power grid. This up-and-coming energy source will only grow in the years to come, helping to decrease utility costs and maintenance for residential and commercial customers.

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