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Where is geothermal energy found
The Earth’s geothermal resources are theoretically more than adequate to supply humanity’s energy needs, but only a very small fraction may be profitably exploited. Drilling and exploration for deep resources is very fast. Forecasts for the future of geothermal power depend on assumptions about technology, energy prices, subsidies, and interest rates. Polls show that customers would be willing to pay a little more for a renewable energy source like geothermal. But as a result of government assisted research and industry experience, the cost of generating geothermal power has decreased by 25% over the past two decades.In 2001, geothermal energy cost between two and ten cents per kwh.
Geothermal power plants use hydrothermalresources that have two common ingredients: water (hydro) and heat (thermal). Geothermal plants require high temperature (300°F to 700°F) hydrothermal resources that may come from either dry steam wells or hot water wells. We can use these resources by drilling wells into the Earth and piping the steam or hot water to the surface. Geothermal wells are one to two miles deep.
There are three basic types of geothermal power plants:
Dry steam plants use steam piped directly from a geothermal reservoir to turn the generator turbines. The first geothermal power plant was built in 1904 in Tuscany, Italy, where natural steam erupted from the Earth.
Flash steam plants take high-pressure hot water from deep inside the Earth and convert it to steam to drive the generator turbines. When the steam cools, it condenses to water and is injected back into the ground to be used over and over again. Most geothermal power plants are flash steam plants.
Binary cycle power plants transfer the heat from geothermal hot water to another liquid. The heat causes the second liquid to turn to steam which is used to drive a generator turbine.
The environmental impact of geothermal energy depends on how it is being used. Direct use and heating applications have almost no negative impact on the environment.
Geothermal power plants do not burn fuel to generate electricity, so their emission levels are very low. They release less than 1% of the carbon dioxide emissions of a fossil fuel plant. Geothermal plants use scrubber systems to clean the air of hydrogen sulfide that is naturally found in the steam and hot water.
Geothermal plants emit 97% less acid rain-causing sulfur compounds than are emitted by fossil fuel plants. After the steam and water from a geothermal reservoir have been used, they are injected back into the Earth.
Using the Earth’s Constant Temperatures for Heating and Cooling
While temperatures above ground change a lot from day to day and season to season, temperatures 10 feet below the Earth’s surface hold nearly constant between 50° and 60°F. For most areas, this means that soil temperatures are usually warmer than the air in winter and cooler than the air in summer. Geothermal heat pumps use the Earth’s constant temperatures to heat and cool buildings. They transfer heat from the ground (or water) into buildings in winter and reverse the process in the summer.
Geothermal Heat Pumps Are Energy Efficient and Cost Effective
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), geothermal heat pumps are the most energy efficient, environmentally clean, and cost effective systems for temperature control. Although most homes still use traditional furnaces and air conditioners, geothermal heat pumps are becoming more popular. In recent years, the U.S. Department of Energy and the EPA have partnered with industry to promote the use of geothermal heat pumps.