The earth is a source of immense power. The energy that we can derive from deep within the layers of the earth is called geothermal energy. Humans have known about and used geothermal energy for ages now. Some communities in the world heavily rely on it even today.
Read this MomJunction article to know more about geothermal energy and 41 fascinating facts about it.
1. What Is Geothermal Energy?
Geothermal energy is the energy derived from the heat within the earth. The term geothermal is derived from two words: ‘geo’, which means the earth and ‘thermal’, which means heat. The name is derived from the Greek words for earth (‘gi’) and heat (‘thermos’).
2. How Is Geothermal Energy Produced?
The earth has different layers namely the inner core, outer core, mantle, and the crust, which is the top-most layer of earth. Temperatures within the inner core reach a whopping 10,800°F (5982°C) and can transmit the heat across the layers. Temperatures between the mantle and crust boundary can reach 392°F (200°C). This heat is absorbed by the rock within the earth’s crust, and eventually by groundwater. It is this heated water that erupts from the hot water streams formed out of cracks on the earth’s crust. Geothermal energy application harnesses this energy emanating from the core of the earth.
3. How Is Geothermal Energy Used?
Geothermal energy has several applications, but the most common one is the generation of electricity. Some countries also use geothermal energy to generate heat that goes into warming of their homes.
4. Is Geothermal Energy Renewable?
Yes. Geothermal energy is renewable as humans consume a very small amount of the energy that the earth generates. Also, the earth can quickly replenish the energy consumed by us humans.
5. When Was Geothermal Energy First Used?
Historians believe that human civilizations have been using geothermal energy for centuries. For example, the Romans are known to have used hot springs for bathing more than 1000 years ago! They would also run the hot water through underground channels to heat the floor of a house during winters.
6. Which Was The First Geothermal Plant In The World?
The first geothermal plant was built at Larderello, Italy, in the year 1904. Steam from water heated with geothermal energy was used to power a small turbine, which generated enough electricity to power five light bulbs.
7. Which Is The World’s Largest Geothermal Energy Plant?
Geysers Geothermal Complex to the north of San Francisco, California is the world’s largest geothermal energy plant. The 22 power plants within the complex can generate 725 megawatts of electricity, which is sufficient to power 725,000 homes.
8. How Long Do Geothermal Plants Function?
Geothermal plants run 24 hours a day for seven days a week and can produce a stable quantity of energy that can be easily modulated for a controlled output.
9. How Many Countries In The World Produce Geothermal Energy?
There are 24 countries in the world with functional geothermal power plants.
10. Which Country Produces The Most Geothermal Power?
The United States produces the most geothermal electric power followed by the Philippines and Indonesia.
More Amazing Facts About Geothermal Energy
- A geothermal plant pumps underground water or steam heated to temperatures of 300-700°F (150-370°C) by geothermal energy.
- There are three types of geothermal energy power plants: dry steam, flash, and binary types.
- The dry steam method is the oldest method of geothermal energy application. In the dry steam method, the steam from underwater springs is channeled to turn a turbine, which in turn generates electricity.
- In the flash method, hot underground water is pumped into a chamber filled with cold water. The pressure and temperature difference between the water lead to the formation of steam, which is used to spin the turbines that generate electricity.
- In the binary method, a fluid with a low boiling point is piped through hot underground steam. It turns the fluid into vapor, which turns a turbine that generates electricity.
- Sometimes the crust is deliberately broken to create underground fractures and channels. Cold water is pumped into these channels, where it absorbs the earth’s heat and turns into hot water. The hot water and steam are pumped outwards for use in geothermal power plants. Such a form of harvesting geothermal energy is called an enhanced geothermal system.
- Geothermal power plants emit 97% less sulfur compounds that cause acid rain. They also emit 99% less carbon dioxide when compared to a fossil fuel power plant of the same size.
- Geothermal power plants can be limited to the boundaries of tectonic plates or places where there are cracks in the crust rock. These places allow a significant amount of hot water and steam to escape from the earth naturally, thus making it easy to use geothermal energy.
- Geothermal energy is what helps form natural hot water lakes and springs, which are used by humans as hot water spas.
- Natural hot water spas powered by geothermal energy have been known to humans for more than 2000 years. The oldest spa pool is found in China. It is said to have been built before 200 BC, by people of the Qin Dynasty.
- Chaudes-Aigues in France is one of the oldest and most famous spa towns in the world. The town has several natural hot springs and is a popular tourist destination.
- Geothermal power accounts for less than 1% of electricity produced in the United States despite the country’s large capacity and production of geothermal energy.
- The growing adoption of geothermal power can make geothermal energy meet 10% of electricity demand in the US.
- People in Iceland use geothermal energy for almost all their heating needs: from heating water to heating their homes.
- More than 90% of homes in Reykjavik, the capital city of Iceland, are heated through the direct application of geothermal energy.
- The sustained use of geothermal energy can significantly help a nation reduce its oil importing expense. It is said that Iceland saves more than $100 million each year on oil imports through the use of geothermal energy.
- In some parts of Iceland, hot water from geothermal plants runs under the pavements to melt the ice on the surface.
- The state of California in the US accounts for 73% of geothermal energy produced in the United States.
- In 2015, 22 geothermal energy producing nations, including the US, produced a total of 76 billion kWh of electricity using geothermal energy.
- In 2017, the geothermal power plants in the United States produced 16 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity.
- Geothermal energy contributes to almost 50% of electricity generated in Kenya and nearly 27% of the electricity generated in The Philippines.
- Despite its vast availability, geothermal energy is expensive to extract when compared to other forms of renewable energy. Drilling into the earth’s crust to extract the hot water or spring is the most significant expense.
- Wells can be drilled as deep as 1-2 miles (1.6-3.2 kilometers) into the earth’s crust to extract hot water and steam for geothermal energy usage.
- The release of hydrogen sulfide from geothermal plants and the disposal of geothermal-heated fluids are the only disadvantages of geothermal energy.
- Several geothermal power plants inject the geothermal water and steam back into the earth. It helps to renew the source of energy.
- Geothermal energy sites can provide energy for several years, but there is still a risk of them cooling down after decades.
- The energy requirement of a geothermal power plant is low when compared to that of a fossil fuel energy plant. Also, most geothermal plants are made right at the source of energy, thus eliminating the cost of transporting raw materials.
- A geothermal power plant can power itself, which makes it immune to volatility in the prices of fossil fuels like oil and coal. It subsequently helps in keeping the prices of geothermal power competitive.
- The cloud-like effluent that one sees at a geothermal power plant is not smoke, but steam with some dissolved minerals. Binary geothermal power plants release the least amount of dissolved minerals in the steam.
- The emission of dissolved minerals into the air by a geothermal plant is considered negligible compared to the emission of greenhouse gases by fossil fuel plants.
41. Energy experts believe that the cost of setting up a geothermal power plant is likely to decrease gradually. By 2024, the global geothermal energy market is expected to increase by 12.2%.
Geothermal energy provides several advantages with the paramount being low carbon footprint and long-term sustainability. Fossil fuel energy is widely known to cause lasting damage to the environment and health. Geothermal energy is probably the need of the hour, just like several other renewable forms of energy produced naturally by our planet.
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