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Essay on geothermal energy: top 11 essays | energy management.

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Essay on Geothermal Energy

Essay Contents:

  • Essay on the Effect of Geothermal Energy on Environment

Essay # 1. Introduction to Geothermal Energy:

Geothermal energy is the earth’s natural heat available inside the earth. This thermal energy contained in the rock and fluid that filled up fractures and pores in the earth’s crust can profitably be used for various purposes. Heat from the Earth, or geothermal — Geo (Earth) + thermal (heat) — energy can be and is accessed by drilling water or steam wells in a process similar to drilling for oil.

Geothermal resources range from shallow ground to hot water and rock several miles below the Earth’s surface, and even farther down to the extremely hot molten rock called magma. Mile-or-more-deep wells can be drilled into underground reservoirs to tap steam and very hot water that can be brought to the surface for use in a variety of applications.

This geothermal energy originates from the original formation of the planet, from radioactive decay of minerals, from volcanic activity and from solar energy absorbed at the surface. It has been used for bathing since Paleolithic times and for space heating since ancient Roman times, but is now better known for generating electricity.

Worldwide, about 10,715 megawatts (MW) of geothermal power is online in 24 countries. An additional 28 gigawatts of direct geothermal heating capacity is installed for district heating, space heating, spas, industrial processes, desalination and agricultural applications.

India has reasonably good potential for geothermal; the potential geothermal provinces can produce approximately 10,600 MW of power.

Geothermal power is cost effective, reliable, sustainable, and environmentally friendly, but has historically been limited to areas near tectonic plate boundaries. Recent technological advances have dramatically expanded the range and size of viable resources, especially for applications such as home heating, opening a potential for widespread exploitation.

Geothermal wells release greenhouse gases trapped deep within the earth, but these emissions are much lower per energy unit than those of fossil fuels. As a result, geothermal power has the potential to help mitigate global warming if widely deployed in place of fossil fuels.

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 expensive. Forecasts for the future of geothermal power depend on assumptions about technology, energy prices, subsidies, and interest rates.

Essay # 2. History of Geothermal Energy Worldwide:

The oldest known pool fed by a hot spring, built in the Qin dynasty in the 3rd century BC.

Hot springs have been used for bathing at least since Paleolithic times. The oldest known spa is a stone pool on China’s Lisan mountain built in the Qin dynasty in the 3rd century BC, at the same site where the Huaqing Chi palace was later built. In the first century AD, Romans conquered Aquae Sulis, now Bath, Somerset, England, and used the hot springs there to feed public baths and underfloor heating.

The admission fees for these baths probably represent the first commercial use of geothermal power. The world’s oldest geothermal district heating system in Chaudes-Aigues, France, has been operating since the 14th century. The earliest industrial exploitation began in 1827 with the use of geyser steam to extract boric acid from volcanic mud in Larderello, Italy.

In 1892, America’s first district heating system in Boise, Idaho was powered directly by geothermal energy, and was copied in Klamath Falls, Oregon in 1900. A deep geothermal well was used to heat greenhouses in Boise in 1926, and geysers were used to heat greenhouses in Iceland and Tuscany at about the same time. Charlie Lieb developed the first down-hole heat exchanger in 1930 to heat his house. Steam and hot water from geysers began heating homes in Iceland starting in 1943.

Global geothermal electric capacity. Upper red line is installed capacity; lower green line is realized production.

In the 20th century, demand for electricity led to the consideration of geothermal power as a generating source. Prince Piero Ginori Conti tested the first geothermal power generator on 4 July 1904, at the same Larderello dry steam field where geothermal acid extraction began.

It successfully lit four light bulbs. Later, in 1911, the world’s first commercial geothermal power plant was built there. It was the world’s only industrial producer of geothermal electricity until New Zealand built a plant in 1958.

By this time, Lord Kelvin had already invented the heat pump in 1852, and Heinrich Zoelly had patented the idea of using it to draw heat from the ground in 1912. But it was not until the late 1940s that the geothermal heat pump was successfully implemented. The earliest one was probably Robert C. Webber’s home-made 2.2 kW direct-exchange system, but sources disagree as to the exact timeline of his invention.

J. Donald Kroeker designed the first commercial geothermal heat pump to heat the Commonwealth Building (Portland, Oregon) and demonstrated it in 1946. Professor Carl Nielsen of Ohio State University built the first residential open loop version in his home in 1948. The technology became popular in Sweden as a result of the 1973 oil crisis, and has been growing slowly in worldwide acceptance since then.

In 1960, Pacific Gas and Electric began operation of the first successful geothermal electric power plant in the United States at The Geysers in California. The original turbine lasted for more than 30 years and produced 11 MW net power.

The binary cycle power plant was first demonstrated in 1967 in the U.S.S.R. and later introduced to the U.S. in 1981. This technology allows the generation of electricity from much lower temperature resources than previously. In 2006, a binary cycle plant in Chena Hot Springs, Alaska, came on-line, producing electricity from a record low fluid temperature of 57°C (135°F).

Installed geothermal electric capacity as of 2007 is around 10000 MW. The main countries having major electric generation installed capacities (as of 2007) are USA (3000MW), Philippines(2000MW), Indonesia (1000MW), Mexico (1000MW), Italy (900 MW), Japan(600MW), New Zealand (500MW), Iceland (450MW). The other region includes the Latin American countries, African countries and Russia.

Essay # 3. Formation of Geothermal Resources:

Geothermal energy is made up of heat from the earth. Underneath the earth’s relatively, thin crust, temperature range from 1000-4000°C and in some areas, pressures exceed 20,000 psi. Geothermal energy is most likely generated from radioactive, thorium, potassium and uranium dispersed evenly through the earth’s interior which produce heat as part of the decaying process. This process generates enough heat to keep the lose of the earth at temperature approaching 4000°C.

Composed primarily of molten Ni and Fe the core is surrounded by a layer of molten rock, the mantle at approx. 1000°C. Nine major crystal plates float on the mantle, and currents in the mantle cause the plates to drift, colliding in some areas and diverging in others.

When two continental plates coverage, a complex series of chemical reactions involving water and other substances combine to generate large bodies of molten rock called magna chamber that rise through the crust often resulting in volcanic activity. Molten rock also rises in the earth’s crust where the plates are moving away from each other and in other areas where the crust is thin.

Volcanoes, hot springs, geysers and fumaroles are natural clues as to the presence of geothermal resources near the surface and where economic drilling operations can tap their heat and pressure. Additional heat can be generated by friction as two plates converge and one moves on top of other.

Essay # 4. Types of Geothermal Resources:

There are following types of geothermal resources:

(i) Hydrothermal.

(ii) Geopressured.

(iii) Hot Dry Rock.

(iv) Active Volcanic Vents and Magna.

(i) Hydrothermal:

Hydrothermal resources contain superheated rock trapped by a layer of impermeable rock. The highest quality reserves with temperature over 240°C contain steam with little or no condensate (vapour dominated resources).

Some hydrothermal reserves are very hot ranging from 150-200°C, but roughly 2/3rd are of moderate temperature (100-180°C). Only two sizeable high quality dry steam reserves have been located to date on in the US and one in Italy. The geysers in northern California is perhaps the world’s largest dry steam field and could provide 2000 MWe capacity for upto 30 years.

(ii) Geopressured:

It contains moderate-temperature brines containing dissolved methane. They are trapped under high pressure in deep sedimentary formations sealed between impermeable layers of clay and shale. Pressures vary from 5000 to over 20,000 psi at depths of 1500 to 15000 metres. Temperature range from 90 to over 200°C, although they seldom exceed 150°C, each barrel of fluid at 10,000 psi and 150°C could contain between 20 and 50 standard cubic feed (SCF) of methane.

(iii) Hot Dry Rock:

It contains high temperature rocks, ranging from 90-650°C that may be fractured and contain little or no water. The rocks must be artificially fractured and heat transfer fluid circulated to extract their energy. Hot dry rock resources are much more extensive than hydrothermal or geo-pressured, but extracting their energy is more difficult.

(iv) Active Volcanic Vents and Magma:

It occurs in many parts of the world. Magma is molten rock at temperature ranging from 700°C to 1600°C, lying under the earth crust, the molten rock is part of the mantle and in approx. 24 to 28 km thick. Magma chambers represent a huge energy source, the largest of all geothermal resources but they rarely occur near the surface of the earth and extracting their energy is difficult.

Essay # 5. Geothermal Electricity:

As per the International Geothermal Association (IGA) sources, about 10,715 MW of geothermal power in 24 countries is online. In 2010, the United States led the world in geothermal electricity production with 3,086 MW of installed capacity from 77 power plants.

The largest group of geothermal power plants in the world is located at the Geysers, a geothermal field in California. The Philippines is the second highest producer, with 1,904 MW of capacity online. Geothermal power makes up approximately 18% of the country’s electricity generation.

Geothermal electric plants were traditionally built exclusively on the edges of tectonic plates where high temperature geothermal resources are available near the surface. The development of binary cycle power plants and improvements in drilling and extraction technology enable enhanced geothermal systems over a much greater geographical range.

Demonstration projects are operational in Landau-Pfalz, Germany, and Soultz-sous-Forest, France, while an earlier effort in Basel, Switzerland was shut down after it triggered earthquakes. Other demonstration projects are under construction in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

The thermal efficiency of geothermal electric plants is low, around 10-23%, because geothermal fluids do not reach the high temperatures of steam from boilers. The laws of thermodynamics limits the efficiency of heat engines in extracting useful energy. Exhaust heat is wasted, unless it can be used directly and locally, for example in greenhouses, timber mills, and district heating.

System efficiency does not materially affect operational costs as it would for plants that use fuel, but it does affect return on the capital used to build the plant. In order to produce more energy than the pumps consume, electricity generation requires relatively hot fields and specialized heat cycles. Because geothermal power does not rely on variable sources of energy, unlike, for example, wind or solar, its capacity factor can be quite large – up to 96% has been demonstrated. The global average was 73% in 2005.

Essay # 6. Geothermal Power Plants Technology:

To convert geothermal energy into electrical energy, heat must be extracted first to convert it into useable form. Mile-or-more-deep wells can be drilled into underground reservoirs to tap steam and very hot water that drive turbines that drive electricity generators.

There are basically four types of geothermal power plants which are operating today. The description of these power plants is as follows:

(i) Flashed Steam Plant:

The extremely hot water from drill holes when released from the deep reservoirs high pressure steam (termed as flashed steam) is released. This force of steam is used to rotate turbines. The steam gets condensed and is converted into water again, which is returned to the reservoir. Flashed steam plants are widely distributed throughout the world.

(ii) Dry Steam Plant:

Usually geysers are the main source of dry steam. Those geothermal reservoirs which mostly produce steam and little water are used in electricity production systems. As steam from the reservoir shoots out, it is used to rotate a turbine, after sending the steam through a rock-catcher. The rock-catcher protects the turbine from rocks which come along with the steam.

(iii) Binary Power Plant:

In this type of power plant, the geothermal water is passed through a heat exchanger where its heat is transferred to a secondary liquid, namely isobutene, isopentane or ammonia-water mixture present in an adjacent, separate pipe. Due to this double-liquid heat exchanger system, it is called a binary power plant.

The secondary liquid which is also called as working fluid should have lower boiling point than water. It turns into vapour on getting required heat from the hot water. The vapour from the working fluid is used to rotate turbines.

The binary system is therefore useful in geothermal reservoirs which are relatively low in temperature gradient. Since the system is a completely closed one, there is minimum chance of heat loss. Hot water is immediately recycled back into the reservoir. The working fluid is also condensed back to the liquid and used over and over again.

(iv) Hybrid Power Plant:

Some geothermal fields produce boiling water as well as steam, which are also used in power generation. In this system of power generation, the flashed and binary systems are combined to make use of both steam and hot water. Efficiency of hybrid power plants is however less than that of the dry steam plants.

Enhanced Geothermal System:

The term enhanced geothermal systems (EGS), also known as engineered geothermal systems (formerly hot dry rock geothermal), refers to a variety of engineering techniques used to artificially create hydrothermal resources (underground steam and hot water) that can be used to generate electricity.

Traditional geothermal plants exploit naturally occurring hydrothermal reservoirs and are limited by the size and location of such natural reservoirs. EGS reduces these constraints by allowing for the creation of hydrothermal reservoirs in deep, hot but naturally dry geological formations. EGS techniques can also extend the lifespan of naturally occurring hydrothermal resources.

Given the costs and limited full-scale system research to date, EGS remains in its infancy, with only a few research and pilot projects existing around the world and no commercial-scale EGS plants to date. The technology is so promising, however, that a number of studies have found that EGS could quickly become widespread.

Essay # 7. Other Applications of Geothermal Energy:

In the geothermal industry, low temperature means temperatures of 300°F (149°C) or less. Low-temperature geothermal resources are typically used in direct-use applications, such as district heating, greenhouses, fisheries, mineral recovery, and industrial process heating. However, some low-temperature resources can generate electricity using binary cycle electricity generating technology.

Direct heating is far more efficient than electricity generation and places less demanding temperature requirements on the heat resource. Heat may come from co-generation via., a geothermal electrical plant or from smaller wells or heat exchangers buried in shallow ground.

As a result, geothermal heating is economic at many more sites than geothermal electricity generation. Where natural hot springs are available, the heated water can be piped directly into radiators. If the ground is hot but dry, earth tubes or down-hole heat exchangers can collect the heat.

But even in areas where the ground is colder than room temperature, heat can still be extracted with a geothermal heat pump more cost-effectively and cleanly than by conventional furnaces.

These devices draw on much shallower and colder resources than traditional geothermal techniques, and they frequently combine a variety of functions, including air conditioning, seasonal energy storage, solar energy collection, and electric heating. Geothermal heat pumps can be used for space heating essentially anywhere.

Geothermal heat supports many applications. District heating applications use networks of piped hot water to heat many buildings across entire communities. In Reykjavik, Iceland, spent water from the district heating system is piped below pavement and sidewalks to melt snow.

Essay # 8. Economics Related to Geothermal Energy Harnessing :

Geothermal power requires no fuel (except for pumps), and is therefore immune to fuel cost fluctuations, but capital costs are significant. Drilling accounts for over half the costs, and exploration of deep resources entails significant risks.

Unlike traditional power plants that run on fuel that must be purchased over the life of the plant, geothermal power plants use a renewable resource that is not susceptible to price fluctuations. The price of geothermal is within range of other electricity choices available today when the costs of the lifetime of the plant are considered.

Most of the costs related to geothermal power plants are related to resource exploration and plant construction. Like oil and gas exploration, it is expensive and because only one in five wells yield a reservoir suitable for development. Geothermal developers must prove that they have reliable resource before they can secure millions of dollar required to develop geothermal resources.

Although the cost of generating geothermal has decreased during the last two decades, exploration and drilling remain expensive and risky. Drilling Costs alone account for as much as one-third to one-half to the total cost of a geothermal project. Locating the best resources can be difficult; and developers may drill many dry wells before they discover a viable resource.

Because rocks in geothermal areas are usually extremely hard and hot, developers must frequently replace drilling equipment. Individual productive geothermal wells generally yield between 2 MW and 5 MW of electricity; each may cost from $1 million to $5 million to drill. A few highly productive wells are capable of producing 25 MW or more of electricity.

Transmission:

Geothermal power plants must be located near specific areas near a reservoir because it is not practical to transport steam or hot water over distances greater than two miles. Since many of the best geothermal resources are located in rural areas, developers may be limited by their ability to supply electricity to the grid. New power lines are expensive to construct and difficult to site.

Many existing transmission lines are operating near capacity and may not be able to transmit electricity without significant upgrades. Consequently, any significant increase in the number of geothermal power plants will be limited by those plants ability to connect, upgrade or build new lines to access to the power grid and whether the grid is able to deliver additional power to the market.

Direct heating applications can use much shallower wells with lower temperatures, so smaller systems with lower costs and risks are feasible. Residential geothermal heat pumps with a capacity of 10 kilowatt (kW) are routinely installed.

District heating (Cities etc.) systems may benefit from economies of scale if demand is geographically dense, as in cities, but otherwise piping installation dominates capital costs. Direct systems of any size are much simpler than electric generators and have lower maintenance costs per kW.h, but they must consume electricity to run pumps and compressors.

Essay # 9. Barriers in the Way of Geothermal Energy:

i. Finding a suitable build location.

ii. Energy source such as wind, solar and hydro are more popular and better established; these factors could make developers decided against geothermal.

iii. Main disadvantages of building a geothermal energy plant mainly lie in the exploration stage, which can be extremely capital intensive and high-risk; many companies who commission surveys are often disappointed, as quite often, the land they were interested in, cannot support a geothermal energy plant.

iv. Some areas of land may have the sufficient hot rocks to supply hot water to a power station, but many of these areas are located in harsh areas of the world (near the poles), or high up in mountains.

v. Harmful gases can escape from deep within the earth, through the holes drilled by the constructors. The plant must be able to contain any leaked gases, but disposing of the gas can be very tricky to do safely.

Essay # 10. Sustainability of Geothermal Energy:

Geothermal power is considered to be sustainable because any projected heat extraction is small compared to the Earth’s heat content. The Earth has an internal heat content of 10 31 joules (3. 10 15 TW.hr). About 20% of this is residual heat from planetary accretion, and the remainder is attributed to higher radioactive decay rates that existed in the past.

Natural heat flows are not in equilibrium, and the planet is slowly cooling down on geologic timescales. Human extraction taps a minute fraction of the natural outflow, often without accelerating it.

Even though geothermal power is globally sustainable, extraction must still be monitored to avoid local depletion. Over the course of decades, individual wells draw down local temperatures and water levels until a new equilibrium is reached with natural flows. The three oldest sites, at Larderello, Wairakei, and the Geysers have experienced reduced output because of local depletion.

Heat and water, in uncertain proportions, were extracted faster than they were replenished. If production is reduced and water is re injected, these wells could theoretically recover their full potential. Such mitigation strategies have already been implemented at some sites. The extinction of several geyser fields has also been attributed to geothermal power development.

Essay # 11. Effect of Geothermal Energy on Environment :

Fluids drawn from the deep earth carry a mixture of gases, notably carbon dioxide (CO 2 ), hydrogen sulphide (H 2 S), methane (CH 4 ) and ammonia (NH 3 ). These pollutants contribute to global warming, acid rain, and noxious smells if released.

Existing geothermal electric plants emit an average of 122 kilograms (269 lb) of CO 2 per megawatt-hour (MW-h) of electricity, a small fraction of the emission intensity of conventional fossil fuel plants. Plants that experience high levels of acids and volatile chemicals are usually equipped with emission-control systems to reduce the exhaust.

In addition to dissolved gases, hot water from geothermal sources may hold in solution trace amounts of toxic chemicals such as mercury, arsenic, boron, and antimony. These chemicals precipitate as the water cools, and can cause environmental damage if released. The modern practice of injecting cooled geothermal fluids back into the Earth to stimulate production has the side benefit of reducing this environmental risk.

Direct geothermal heating systems contain pumps and compressors, which may consume energy from a polluting source. This parasitic load is normally a fraction of the heat output, so it is always less polluting than electric heating. However, if the electricity is produced by burning fossil fuels, then the net emissions of geothermal heating may be comparable to directly burning the fuel for heat.

For example, a geothermal heat pump powered by electricity from a combined cycle natural gas plant would produce about as much pollution as a natural gas condensing furnace of the same size. Therefore the environmental value of direct geothermal heating applications is highly dependent on the emissions intensity of the neighbouring electric grid.

Plant construction can adversely affect land stability Enhanced geothermal systems can trigger earthquakes as part of hydraulic fracturing.

Geothermal has minimal land and freshwater requirements. Geothermal plants use 3.5 square kilometres (1.4 sq mi) per gigawatt of electrical production (not capacity) versus 32 and 12 square kilometres (4.6 sq mi) for coal facilities and wind farms respectively. They use 20 litres (5.3 US gal) of freshwater per MW-h versus over 1,000 litres (260 US gal) per MW-h for nuclear, coal, or oil.

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Geothermal energy.

Geothermal energy is heat that is generated within the Earth. It is a renewable resource that can be harvested for human use.

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Geothermal energy  is heat that is generated within the Earth. ( Geo  means “earth,” and  thermal  means “heat” in Greek.) It is a  renewable resource  that can be harvested for human use. About 2,900 kilometers (1,800 miles) below the Earth’s crust, or surface, is the hottest part of our planet: the  core . A small portion of the core ’s heat comes from the  friction  and  gravitational pull  formed when Earth was created more than 4 billion years ago. However, the vast majority of Earth’s heat is constantly generated by the decay of  radioactive   isotopes , such as potassium-40 and thorium-232. Isotopes are forms of an element that have a different number of  neutrons than regular versions of the element ’s atom.

Potassium, for instance, has 20 neutrons in its nucleus. Potassium-40, however, has 21 neutrons . As potassium-40 decays, its nucleus changes, emitting enormous amounts of energy (radiation). Potassium-40 most often decays to isotopes of calcium (calcium-40) and argon (argon-40). Radioactive decay is a continual process in the core . Temperatures there rise to more than 5,000° Celsius (about 9,000° Fahrenheit). Heat from the core is constantly radiating outward and warming rocks, water, gas, and other geological material. Earth’s temperature rises with depth from the surface to the core . This gradual change in temperature is known as the  geothermal gradient . In most parts of the world, the geothermal gradient is about 25° C per 1 kilometer of depth (1° F per 77 feet of depth). If underground rock formations are heated to about 700-1,300° C (1,300-2,400° F), they can become magma .  Magma  is molten (partly melted) rock permeated by gas and gas bubbles. Magma exists in the  mantle  and lower crust, and sometimes bubbles to the surface as  lava .

Magma heats nearby rocks and underground  aquifers . Hot water can be released through  geysers ,  hot springs , steam   vents , underwater  hydrothermal   vents , and  mud pots .

These are all sources of geothermal energy . Their heat can be captured and used directly for heat, or their steam can be used to generate  electricity . Geothermal energy can be used to heat structures such as buildings, parking lots, and sidewalks. Most of the Earth’s geothermal energy does not bubble out as magma , water, or steam . It remains in the mantle , emanating outward at a slow pace and collecting as pockets of high heat. This dry geothermal heat can be accessed by drilling, and enhanced with injected water to create steam . Many countries have developed methods of tapping into geothermal energy . Different types of geothermal energy are available in different parts of the world. In Iceland, abundant sources of hot, easily accessible underground water make it possible for most people to rely on geothermal sources as a safe, dependable, and inexpensive source of energy. Other countries, such as the U.S., must drill for geothermal energy at greater cost. Harvesting Geothermal Energy: Heating and Cooling Low-Temperature Geothermal Energy Almost anywhere in the world, geothermal heat can be accessed and used immediately as a source of heat. This heat energy is called  low-temperature geothermal energy . Low-temperature geothermal energy is obtained from pockets of heat about 150° C (302° F). Most pockets of low-temperature geothermal energy are found just a few meters below ground. Low-temperature geothermal energy can be used for heating greenhouses, homes, fisheries, and industrial processes. Low-temperature energy is most efficient when used for heating, although it can sometimes be used to generate electricity . People have long used this type of geothermal energy for  engineering , comfort, healing, and cooking. Archaeological evidence shows that 10,000 years ago, groups of  Native Americans gathered around naturally occurring hot springs to  recuperate  or take  refuge  from conflict. In the third century BCE, scholars and leaders warmed themselves in a hot spring fed by a stone pool near Lishan, a mountain in central China. One of the most famous hot spring spas is in the appropriately named town of Bath, England. Starting construction in about 60 CE, Roman conquerors built an elaborate system of steam rooms and pools using heat from the region’s shallow pockets of low-temperature geothermal energy .

The hot springs of Chaudes Aigues, France, have provided a source of income and energy for the town since the 1300s. Tourists flock to the town for its elite  spas . The low-temperature geothermal energy also supplies heat to homes and businesses. The United States opened its first geothermal district heating system in 1892 in Boise, Idaho. This system still provides heat to about 450 homes. Co-Produced Geothermal Energy Co-produced geothermal energy   technology relies on other energy sources. This form of geothermal energy uses water that has been heated as a byproduct in oil and gas wells. In the United States, about 25 billion barrels of hot water are produced every year as a  byproduct . In the past, this hot water was simply discarded. Recently, it has been recognized as a potential source of even more energy: Its steam can be used to generate electricity to be used immediately or sold to the grid. One of the first co-produced geothermal energy projects was initiated at the Rocky Mountain Oilfield Testing Center in the U.S. state of Wyoming.

Newer technology has allowed co-produced geothermal energy facilities to be  portable . Although still in experimental stages, mobile power plants hold tremendous potential for isolated or impoverished communities. Geothermal Heat Pumps Geothermal heat pumps (GHPs) take advantage of the Earth’s heat, and can be used almost anywhere in the world. GHPs are drilled about 3 to 90 meters (10 to 300 feet) deep, much shallower than most oil and natural gas wells. GHPs do not require fracturing  bedrock  to reach their energy source.

A pipe connected to a GHP is arranged in a continuous loop—called a "slinky loop"—that circles underground and above ground, usually throughout a building. The loop can also be contained entirely underground, to heat a parking lot or landscaped area. In this system, water or other liquids (such as glycerol, similar to a car’s  antifreeze ) move through the pipe. During the cold season, the liquid absorbs underground geothermal heat. It carries the heat upward through the building and gives off warmth through a duct system. These heated pipes can also run through hot water tanks and offset water-heating costs. During the summer, the GHP system works the opposite way: The liquid in the pipes is warmed from the heat in the building or parking lot, and carries the heat to be cooled underground. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has called geothermal heating the most energy-efficient and environmentally safe heating and cooling system. The largest GHP system was completed in 2012 at Ball State University in Indiana. The system replaced a coal -fired boiler system, and experts estimate the university will save about $2 million a year in heating costs. Harvesting Geothermal Energy: Electricity In order to obtain enough energy to generate electricity, geothermal power plants rely on heat that exists a few kilometers below the surface of the Earth. In some areas, the heat can naturally exist underground as pockets steam or hot water. However, most areas need to be “enhanced” with injected water to create steam. Dry-Steam Power Plants Dry- steam power plants take advantage of natural underground sources of steam . The steam is piped directly to a power plant, where it is used to fuel  turbines and generate electricity . Dry steam is the oldest type of power plant to generate electricity using geothermal energy . The first dry- steam power plant was constructed in Larderello, Italy, in 1911. Today, the dry- steam power plants at Larderello continue to supply electricity to more than a million residents of the area. There are only two known sources of underground steam in the United States: Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and The Geysers in California. Since Yellowstone is a protected area, The Geysers is the only place where a dry- steam power plant is in use. It is one of the largest geothermal energy complexes in the world, and provides about a fifth of all renewable energy in California.

Flash-Steam Power Plant

Flash- steam power plants use naturally occurring sources of underground hot water and steam . Water that is hotter than 182° C (360° F) is pumped into a low-pressure area. Some of the water “flashes,” or evaporates rapidly into steam , and is funneled out to power a turbine and generate electricity . Any remaining water can be flashed in a separate tank to extract more energy.

Flash- steam power plants are the most common type of geothermal power plants. The volcanically active island nation of Iceland supplies nearly all its electrical needs through a series of flash- steam geothermal power plants. The steam and excess warm water produced by the flash- steam process heat icy sidewalks and parking lots in the  frigid  Arctic winter. The islands of the Philippines also sit over a tectonically active area, the " Ring of Fire " that rims the Pacific Ocean. Government and industry in the Philippines have invested in flash- steam power plants , and today the nation is second only to the United States in its use of geothermal energy . In fact, the largest single geothermal power plant is a flash- steam facility in Malitbog, Philippines. Binary Cycle Power Plants Binary cycle power plants use a unique process to conserve water and generate heat. Water is heated underground to about 107°-182° C (225°-360° F). The hot water is contained in a pipe, which cycles above ground. The hot water heats a liquid organic compound that has a lower boiling point than water. The organic liquid creates steam , which flows through a turbine and powers a generator to create electricity . The only emission in this process is steam . The water in the pipe is recycled back to the ground, to be re-heated by the Earth and provide heat for the organic compound again. The Beowawe Geothermal Facility in the U.S. state of Nevada uses the binary cycle to generate electricity . The organic compound used at the facility is an industrial refrigerant (tetrafluoroethane, a  greenhouse gas ). This refrigerant has a much lower boiling point than water, meaning it is converted into gas at low temperatures. The gas fuels the turbines , which are connected to electrical generators. Enhanced Geothermal Systems The Earth has virtually endless amounts of energy and heat beneath its surface. However, it is not possible to use it as energy unless the underground areas are " hydrothermal ." This means the underground areas are not only hot, but also contain liquid and are  permeable . Many areas do not have all three of these components. An  enhanced geothermal system (EGS)  uses drilling, fracturing, and injection to provide fluid and permeability in areas that have hot—but dry—underground rock. To develop an EGS, an “injection well” is drilled vertically into the ground. Depending on the type of rock, this can be as shallow as 1 kilometer (0.6 mile) to as deep as 4.5 kilometers (2.8 miles). High-pressure cold water is injected into the drilled space , which forces the rock to create new fractures, expand existing fractures, or dissolve. This creates a reservoir of underground fluid.

Water is pumped through the injection well and absorbs the rocks’ heat as it flows through the reservoir. This hot water, called  brine , is then piped back up to Earth’s surface through a “production well.” The heated brine is contained in a pipe. It warms a secondary fluid that has a low boiling point, which evaporates to steam and powers a turbine . The brine cools off, and cycles back down through the injection well to absorb underground heat again. There are no gaseous emissions besides the water vapor from the  evaporated liquid. Pumping water into the ground for EGSs can cause seismic activity, or small  earthquakes . In Basel, Switzerland, the injection process caused hundreds of tiny earthquakes that grew to more significant seismic activity even after the water injection was halted. This led to the geothermal project being canceled in 2009. Geothermal Energy and the Environment Geothermal energy is a renewable resource. The Earth has been emitting heat for about 4.5 billion years, and will continue to emit heat for billions of years into the future because of the ongoing radioactive decay in the Earth’s core. However, most wells that extract the heat will eventually cool, especially if heat is extracted more quickly than it is given time to replenish. Larderello, Italy, site of the world’s first electrical plant supplied by geothermal energy, has seen its steam pressure fall by more than 25% since the 1950s. Re-injecting water can sometimes help a cooling geothermal site last longer. However, this process can cause “micro-earthquakes.” Although most of these are too small to be felt by people or register on a scale of magnitude, sometimes the ground can quake at more threatening levels and cause the geothermal project to shut down, as it did in Basel, Switzerland.

Geothermal systems do not require enormous amounts of freshwater. In binary systems, water is only used as a heating agent, and is not exposed or evaporated . It can be recycled, used for other purposes, or released into the atmosphere as non- toxic steam . However, if the geothermal fluid is not contained and recycled in a pipe, it can absorb harmful substances such as arsenic, boron, and fluoride. These  toxic  substances can be carried to the surface and released when the water evaporates . In addition, if the fluid leaks to other underground water systems, it can contaminate clean sources of drinking water and aquatic  habitats .

Advantages There are many advantages to using geothermal energy either directly or indirectly:

  • Geothermal energy is renewable; it is not a fossil fuel that will be eventually used up. The Earth is continuously radiating heat out from its core, and will continue to do so for billions of years.
  • Some form of geothermal energy can be accessed and harvested anywhere in the world.
  • Using geothermal energy is relatively clean. Most systems only emit water vapor, although some emit very small amounts of sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxides, and particulates.
  • Geothermal power plants can last for decades and possibly centuries. If a reservoir is managed properly, the amount of extracted energy can be balanced with the rock’s rate of renewing its heat.
  • Unlike other renewable energy sources, geothermal systems are “ baseload .” This means they can work in the summer or winter, and are not dependent on changing factors such as the presence of wind or sun. Geothermal power plants produce electricity or heat 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • The space it takes to build a geothermal facility is much more  compact  than other power plants. To produce a GWh (a gigawatt hour, or one million kilowatts of energy for one hour, an enormous amount of energy), a geothermal plant uses the equivalent of about 1,046 square kilometers (404 square miles) of land. To produce the same GWh,  wind energy  requires 3,458 square kilometers (1,335 square miles), a solar  photovoltaic  center requires 8,384 square kilometers (3,237 square miles), and  coal  plants use about 9,433 square kilometers (3,642 square miles).
  • Geothermal energy systems are adaptable to many different conditions.

They can be used to heat, cool, or power individual homes, whole districts, or industrial processes.

Disadvantages Harvesting geothermal energy still poses many challenges:

  • The process of injecting high-pressure streams of water into the Earth can result in minor seismic activity, or small earthquakes.
  • Geothermal plants have been linked to  subsidence , or the slow sinking of land. This happens as the underground fractures collapse upon themselves. This can lead to damaged pipelines, roadways, buildings, and natural drainage systems.
  • Geothermal plants can release small amounts of greenhouse gases such as hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide.
  • Water that flows through underground reservoirs can pick up trace amounts of toxic elements such as arsenic, mercury, and selenium. These harmful substances can be leaked to water sources if the geothermal system is not properly insulated.
  • Although the process requires almost no fuel to run, the initial cost of installing geothermal technology is expensive. Developing countries may not have the sophisticated infrastructure or start-up costs to invest in a geothermal power plant. Several facilities in the Philippines, for example, were made possible by investments from American industry and government agencies. Today, the plants are Philippine-owned and operated.

Geothermal Energy and People Geothermal energy exists in different forms all over the Earth (by steam vents, lava, geysers, or simply dry heat), and there are different possibilities for extracting and using this heat. In New Zealand, natural geysers and steam vents heat swimming pools, homes, greenhouses, and prawn farms. New Zealanders also use dry geothermal heat to dry timber and feedstock. Other countries, such as Iceland, have taken advantage of molten rock and magma resources from volcanic activity to provide heat for homes and buildings. In Iceland, almost 90% of the country’s people use geothermal heating resources. Iceland also relies on its natural geysers to melt snow, warm fisheries, and heat greenhouses. The United States generates the most amount of geothermal energy of any other country. Every year, the U.S. generates at least 15 billion kilowatt-hours, or the equivalent of burning about 25 million barrels of oil. Industrial geothermal technologies have been concentrated in the western U.S. In 2012, Nevada had 59 geothermal projects either operational or in development, followed by California with 31 projects, and Oregon with 16 projects. The cost of geothermal energy technology has gone down in the last decade, and is becoming more economically possible for individuals and companies.

Balneotherapy Balneotherapy is the treatment of disease by spa watersusually bathing and drinking. Some famous spas in the United States that offer balneotherapy include Hot Springs, Arkansas, and Warm Springs, Georgia. The most famous balneotheraputic spa in the world, Iceland's Blue Lagoon, is not a natural hot spring. It is a manmade feature where water from a local geothermal power plant is pumped over a lava bed rich in silica and sulfur. These elements react with the warm water to create a bright blue lake with alleged healing properties.

Geothermal Powers

Since 2015 the three countries with the greatest capacity for geothermal energy use have included the United States, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Turkey and Kenya have been steadily building geothermal energy capacity as well.

Ring of Geothermal Geothermal energy sources are often located on plate boundaries, where the Earths crust is constantly interacting with the hot mantle below. The Pacifics so-called Ring of Fire and East Africas Rift Valley are volcanically active areas that hold enormous potential for geothermal power generation.

The Fumaroles There are no geysers at The Geysers, one of the most productive geothermal plants in the world. The California facility sits on fumarolesvents in the Earths crust where steam and other gases (not liquids) escape from the Earths interior.

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Renewable Energy: Geothermal Energy Argumentative Essay

Generally, there are various forms of renewable energy which mainly accrue from natural sources and they include geothermal heat, tides, rain, wind and sunlight. Of all these forms of renewables, geothermal energy is perceived as one of the renowned forms of renewable energy which is generated from the crust of the earth.

This kind of energy however persists as heat that is deposited within the core of the earth (AusAID 2000, p.3). Thus, just like supplementary energy sources, geothermal energy has both disadvantages and advantages given that no any source of energy is deemed perfect.

One advantages of geothermal energy is that this kind of energy is renewable and clean. Basically, geothermal energy is renewable since it is continually replaced by the decay of the radioactive minerals which occur at the rate of thirty TW.

Geothermal energy is a clean renewable energy source because it emits minimal greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (Fräss-Ehrfeld 2010, p.124). This happens to be the case since geothermal power plants are made of control systems which minimize the emissions of greenhouse gases emanating from the possessed drawn-fluids.

Besides, geothermal energy is a renewable form of energy which may be used directly. In the contemporary society, geothermal energy has unswervingly been drawn on when lighting households and this mainly occurs through geothermal heat pumps. In the olden days, hot springs which were forms of geothermal energy, was used to bath.

This implies that, geothermal energy hardly suffers from the intermittency issues such as those experienced in wind and solar energy sources (Fräss-Ehrfeld 2010, p.125). In fact, geothermal energy is a reliable source of renewable energy given that it is always available and does not need energy stowage solutions to function every moment.

Minimal freshwater and land are required when harnessing the geothermal energy. This cannot be compared to solar energy which needs a lot of water to cool and a large area for harnessing. A geothermal plant just needs 1.4 square mi/gigawatt with only twenty liters of fresh water apiece megawatts per hour for cooling (Vogel & Kalb 2010, p.337).

On the other hand, geothermal energy is associated with high cost of implementation. The initial capital cost is only used in drilling and exploitation. Currently, drilling and constructing a geothermal power plant costs two to five million pounds, for each electric megawatt that is produced.

Furthermore, geothermal energy is only available in very few countries because such power plants are just cost effective in regions situated next to the plate tectonic boundaries (AusAID 2000, p.4). However, this problem is currently overcome via the use of enhanced geographical systems which expands the degree of feasible geothermal sources.

Deficiency in competent workers required during the installation of geothermal systems is a further disadvantage. Unlike wind and solar energy that cost less and require less qualified staffs, geothermal is unpopular, hence needs more competent personnel. Finally, geothermal resources have been locally depleted in certain geothermal sites like geysers.

This implies that when extracting geothermal energy, there must be close monitoring to evade such local resource depletion to ensure long run supportable geothermal energy (Vogel & Kalb 2010, p.338). In fact, when the advanced geothermal systems are not adequately handled with care, they could possibly prompt earthquakes. This might in turn severely affect the stability of land.

In conclusion therefore, geothermal energy has become the preferred source of renewable energy in an environment where energy sources have continually gained increased demand. Despite the advantages associated with geothermal energy, this type of energy also has disadvantages.

However, pros of geothermal energy clearly outweigh its cons thus making it to be the most admirable alternative source of energy. The pros and cons of geothermal energy mainly relate to its efficiency, cost, reliability and environmental effects.

AusAID 2000, “ Power for the people: Renewable energy in developing countries” . Web.

Fräss-Ehrfeld , C 2010, Renewable energy sources: a chance to combat climate change , Kluwer Law International, New York, NY.

Vogel, W & Kalb, H 2010, Large-scale solar thermal power: Technologies, costs and development , John Wiley & Sons, Sudbury, MA.

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Home — Essay Samples — Science — Energy — Geothermal Energy: Causes, Types

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Geothermal Energy: Causes, Types

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The cause of geothermal energy

Types of geothermal power plants. binary plants.

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geothermal energy essay example

Essay on Geothermal Energy: Top 9 Essays

geothermal energy essay example

Here is a compilation of essays on ‘Geothermal Energy’  for class 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12. Find paragraphs, long and short essays on ‘Geothermal Energy’ especially written for school and college students.

Essay on Geothermal Energy

Essay Contents:

  • Essay on the Effects of Geothermal Energy on Environment

Essay # 1. Introduction to Geothermal Energy:

Geothermal energy is the energy which lies embedded within the earth.

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Starting from the centre of the earth, it consists of the following zones:

(i) Solid metallic core

(ii) A molten core

(iii) A mantle of solid rock, 3,400 km thick, in layers

(iv) A thin crust i.e., outer shell about 35 km thick.

Temperature ranges from 3,000 to 4,000°C in the core and the base of the mantle. Therefore, underfoot there is tremendous heat energy which makes its presence felt in the eruption of volcanoes and in the spouting of hot springs and geysers.

Four-fifth of this heat comes from the slow decay of radioactive isotopes within the earth and about one-fifth is heat of the dust and gas clouds which coalesced to form the planet about 5 billion years before.

There are at least seven types of geothermal resources namely:

(i) Dry steam fields,

(ii) Wet steam fields,

(iii) Hot water,

(iv) Geo-pressure fields,

(v) Magma deposits,

(vi) Hot dry rock, and

(vii) Volcanoes.

The first three are called hydrothermal reservoirs, owing to involvement of water in some form, and are the best resources for production of geothermal energy at present.

Dry steam field is the most desirable form of geothermal energy. The steam is clean and easy to convert into electrical energy. Overall cost is considerably less than fossil or nuclear power. The geysers in California (USA) are good examples of dry steam fields. Steam from the well is collected, filtered to remove abrasive particles and passed through the steam-turbines coupled to electric generators. The capacity is 522 MW.

Similarly dry and slightly superheated steam from wells near Lardello in Italy has been used for generation of electrical energy since 1904. The present installed capacity of geothermal plants in Italy is more than 500 MW. Electrical energy is also being produced commercially in New Zealand, USA, Japan, Soviet Union and Mexico. However dry steam wells are rare.

There are about 300 known hot springs in India, located in the Himalayan Mobile belt, West coast region, and Narmada-Sone river region and in Bihar-Bengal belt region. There is a plan to utilise the geothermal energy for generation of electrical energy in Pugga Valley in Ladakh. The hot water under pressure is available at depths of 11-32 metres, at temperatures of 50-110°C.

The heat availability of this source is about 6,000 k calories/second i.e., equivalent of 25 MW of electric power. The temperature of the hot water at Manikaran near Kulu in HP is 69 – 93°C and that of Surajkund (Hazaribagh) is 87°. Wells can be drilled in the hot spring region and the saturated steam from them can be expanded in steam turbines to generate electric power.  

In dry steam plants, the steam is directed onto a closed water flow which on external contact becomes steam which in turn is used to move the blades of turbine. The spent water steam is then condensed back into water by condenser and then exposed again to the heat of dry steam. So, this is a closed cycle system.

Dry steam plants are already in operation in Italy, California and Japan. Residential heating systems based on geothermal resources are in use in Iceland, USA etc. However, despite these successful instances the best use of this resource lies in the generation of electrical energy.

Wet steam fields are twenty times more than the dry steam fields in the world. They give wet steam—a mixture of hot water and steam under high pressure. The steam is separated and expanded in turbines to generate electricity. Such a plant of capacity of 75 MW has been set up in Mexico. The hot water is treated for removal of its minerals and then used for agricultural or municipal purposes.

Hot water can also be used for Desalination plants, air conditioning and refrigeration such as a 100 room hotel at Rotorua (NZ), heating of buildings, district heating, animal husbandry and indus­trial processes. In Iceland about 40% of the populations live in geo-thermally heated houses. The hot water can itself be used to generate electric power by transferring its heat to a secondary medium having boiling point lower than that of water e.g., butane and then expanding its vapour through vapour turbines.

Hot water gushing out from the earth’s interior can be used to evaporate butane or Freon to run vapour turbines and thereby generate electricity, or for other purposes.

In India, the hot springs of Vajreshwari and Ganeshpuri, Off Mumbai, and the sulphur hot springs in foothills of the Himalayas end elsewhere have been known since genera­tions. Until recent times, these hot springs have been used only for bathing for some possible medicinal benefits and for cooking and heating by the local people. The poten­tial of geothermal energy is the smallest among all other resources.

In Japan, geothermal power production was begun at Matsukawa in 1966 and at Otake in 1967. The capacity was 20 MW and 13 MW respectively in 1969, and later increased to about 60 MW. Japan has a total geothermal power produc­tion of about 215 MW. Many towns in United States heat some of their houses and commercial buildings with geothermal energy.

Essay # 2. History of Geothermal Energy Worldwide :

In the 20th century, demand for electrical energy led to the consideration of geothermal power as a generating source. Prince Piero Ginori Conti tested the first geothermal power generator on July 4, 1904, at the same Larderello dry steam field where geothermal acid extraction began. It successfully lit four light bulbs. Later in 1911, the world’s first commercial geothermal power plant was built there. It was the world’s only industrial producer of geothermal electricity until New Zealand built a plant in 1958.

In 1960, Pacific gas and Electric began operation of the first successful geothermal electric power plant in the United States at the Geysers in California. The original turbine lasted for more than 30 years and produced 11 MW net powers.

The binary cycle power plant was first demonstrated in 1967 in the USSR and later introduced to the US in 1981. In 2006, a binary cycle plant in Chena Hot Springs, Alaska, came on-line, producing electricity from a record low fluid temperature of 57°C (135°F).

Installed geothermal electrical power plant capacity as on 2007 was about 10,000 MW. The main countries having major electric generation installed capacities were USA (3,000 MW), Philippines (2,000 MW), Indonesia (1,000 MW), Mexico (1,000 MW), Italy (900 MW), Japan (600 MW), New Zealand (500 MW), Iceland (450 MW). The other region includes the Latin American countries, African countries and Russia.

Essay # 3. Production of Geothermal Electricity :

According to the International Geothermal Association (IGA) sources, about 10,715 MW of geothermal power in 24 coun­tries is online. In 2010, the United States led the world in geothermal electricity production with 3,086 MW of installed capacity from 77 power plants. The largest group of geothermal power plants in the worlds is located at the Geysers, a geothermal field in California. The Philippines is the second highest producer, with 1,904 MW of capacity on line. Geothermal power makes up about 18% of the country elec­tricity generation.

Geothermal electric power plants were traditionally built exclusively on the edges of tectonic plates where high tem­perature geothermal resources are available near the surface. The development of binary cycle power plants and improvements in drilling and extraction technology enhanced geothermal systems over a much greater geographical range. Demon­stration projects are operational in Landau-Pfolz, Germany and Soultz-sous-Forets, France. Other demonstration projects are under construction in Australia, UK and USA.

The thermal efficiency of geothermal electric power plants is low, about 10.23% because geothermal fluids do not attain the high temperatures of steam from boilers. The thermodynamic laws restrict the efficiency of heat engines in extracting useful energy. Exhaust heat is wasted, unless it can be used directly and locally, for example in greenhouses, timber mills, and district heating.

Though system efficiency does not materially affect operational cost as it would for plants using fuels, but it does affect return on the capital cost of the plant. In order to generate more energy than the pumps consume, electricity generation needs relatively hot fields and specialized heat cycles. Because geothermal power does not rely on variable sources of energy, unlike, for example, wind or solar, its capacity factor can be quite large—up to 96% has been demonstrated. The global average was 73% in 2005.

Enhanced Geothermal System:

The term enhanced geothermal systems (EGS), also called the engineered geothermal systems (formerly known as hot dry rock geothermal), refers to a variety of engineering techniques used to artificially create hydrothermal resources (underground steam and hot water) that can be used for generation of electricity.

Traditional geothermal plants exploit naturally occurring hydrothermal reservoirs and are limited by the size and location of such natural reservoirs. EGS reduces these constraints by allowing for the creation of hydrothermal reservoirs in deep, hot but naturally dry geological formations. EGS techniques can also extend the lifespan of natural occurring hydrothermal resources.

Given the costs and limited full-scale system research to date, EGS remains in its fancy, with only a few research and pilot projects existing around the world and no commercial-scale EGS plants to date. The technology is so promising, however, that a number of studies have found that EGS could quickly become wide spread.

Essay # 4. Applications of Geothermal Energy :

Low-temperature (300°F or 149°C) geothermal resources are typically used in direct-use applications like district heating, greenhouses, fisheries, mineral recovery, and industrial process heating. However, some low-temperature resources can be used for generation of electricity using binary cycle electricity generating technology.

Direct heating is far more efficient than electric power generation and places less demanding temperature requirements on the heat resource. Heat may come from cogeneration via, a geothermal electrical plant, or from smaller wells or heat exchangers buried in shallow ground. Geothermal heat pumps can be used for space heating essentially anywhere.

Essay # 5. India Geothermal Energy Resources in India :

India’s geothermal energy capacity have been estimated to produce 10,000 MW of power- a figure which is much higher than the combined power being produced from non-conventional energy sources like wind, solar and biomass. But yet geothermal power has not been explored. With the existing open economic policies of the Govt., and large incentives given to non-conventional energy sectors, the future of geothermal energy sector in India appears to be bright.

Several geothermal provinces in India characterized by heat flow (78-468 mW/m 2 ) and thermal gradients (47-100°C/km) discharge about 400 thermal springs. After the oil crisis in 1970s, the Geological Survey of India conducted lot of sur­vey to explore the possibilities of geothermal power harness­ing. The investigations carried out in the past have identified several sites which are suitable for power generation as well as for direct use.

These provinces are capable of generating 10,000 MW of power. Though geothermal power production in Asian countries like Indonesia, Philippines has gone up, India with it’s around 10,000 MW geothermal power poten­tial is yet to harness to its full capacity. However, with the growing environmental problems associated with thermal power plants, future for geothermal power in India appears to be bright.

Essay # 6. Economics Related to Geothermal Energy Harnessing :

Geothermal power requires no fuel (except for pumps), and is therefore, immune to fuel cost fluctuations, but capital costs are significant. Drilling account for over half the costs, and exploration of deep resources entails significant risks.

Unlike conventional power plants that run on fuel that is to be purchased over the life of the plant, geothermal power plants use a renewable source that is not susceptible to price fluctuations. The price of geothermal is within range of other electricity choices available today when the costs of lifetime of the plant are considered.

Most of the costs related to geothermal power plants are related to resource exploration and plant construction. Like oil and gas exploration, it is expensive and because only one in five wells yield a reservoir suitable for development. Geothermal developers must prove that they have reliable resource before they can secure millions of dollar required to develop geothermal resources.

Although the cost of drilling geothermal has decreased during last two decades, exploration and drilling remain expensive and risky. Drilling costs alone account for as much as one-third to one-half of the total cost of a geothermal project. Location of best resources can be difficult, and developers may drill many dry wells before they discover a viable source.

Because rocks in geothermal areas are usually extremely hard and hot, replacement of drilling equipment is required. Individual productive geothermal wells generally yield between 2 MW and 5 MW of electric­ity; each may cost $1 million to $5 million to drill. A few highly productive wells are capable of producing 25 MW or more power.

Transmission:

Geothermal power plants are to be lo­cated near specific areas near a reservoir because it is not practical to transport steam or hot water over distances ex­ceeding about 3 km. Since many of the best geothermal resources are located in the rural areas, developers may be limited by their ability to supply electricity to the power grid. New power lines are expensive to construct and diffi­cult to site.

Many existing transmission lines are operating near capacity and may not be able to transmit electricity without significant upgrading. Consequently, any significant increase in the number of geothermal power plants will be limited by those plants ability to connect, upgrade or build new lines to access to the power grid and whether the grid is able to deliver additional power to the market.

Essay # 7. Barriers of Geothermal Energy :

1. Energy sources like wind, solar and hydro are more popular and better established; these factors could make developers decided against geothermal.

2. Main disadvantages of building a geothermal energy plant mainly lie in the exploration stage, which can be capital intensive and high-risk; many companies, whose commission surveys are often disappointed, as quite often, the land they were interested in, cannot support a geothermal energy plant.

3. Some areas of land may have the sufficient hot rocks to supply hot water to a power station, but many of these areas are located in harsh areas of the world (near the poles), or high up in mountains.

4. Finding a suitable build location.

5. Harmful gases can escape from deep within the earth, through the holes drilled by the constructors. The plant must be able to contain any leaked gases, but disposing of gas can be very tricky to do safely.

Essay # 8. Sustainability of Geothermal Energy :

Geothermal power is considered to be sustainable because any projected heat extraction is small compared to the Earth’s heat content. The earth has an internal heat content of 10 31 joules (3 × 10 18 MWh). About 20% of this residual heat from planetary accretion and the remainder is attributed to higher radioactive decay rates that existed in the past. Natural heat flows are not in equilibrium, and the planet is slowly cooling down on geologic timescales. Human extraction taps a minute fraction of the natural outflow, often without accelerating it.

Even though geothermal power is globally sustainable, extraction must still be monitored to avoid local depletion. Over the course of decades, individual wells draw down local temperatures and water levels until a new equilibrium is reached with natural flows. The three oldest sites, at Lorderello, Wairakei, and the Geysers have experienced reduced output because of local depletion.

Heat and water, in uncertain pro­portions, were extracted faster than they were replenished. If production is reduced and water re-injected, these wells could their theoretically recover their full potential. Such mitiga­tion strategies have already been implemented at some sites. The extraction of several geyser fields has also been attrib­uted to geothermal power development.

Essay # 9. Effects of Geothermal Energy on Environment :

Fluids drawn from the deep earth carry a mixture of gases, notably carbon dioxide (CO 2 ), hydrogen sulphide (H 2 S), methane (CH 4 ) and ammonia (NH 3 ). These pollutants con­tribute to global warming, acid, rain, and noxious smells if released. Existing geothermal electric power plants emit an average of 122 kg of CO 2 per MWh of electrical energy, a small fraction of the emission intensity of conventional fos­sil fuel plants. Plants that experience high level of acids and volatile chemicals are usually equipped with emission-control systems to reduce the exhaust.

In addition to dissolved gases, hot water from geothermal sources may hold in solution trace amounts of toxic chemi­cals like mercury, arsenic, boron and antimony. These chemicals precipitate as the water cools and can cause environmental damage if released. The modern practice of injecting cooled geothermal fluids back into the earth to stimulate production has the side benefit of reducing this environmental risk.

Direct geothermal heating systems contain pumps and compressors, which may consume energy from a polluting source. This parasitic load is normally a fraction of the heat output, so it is always less polluting than electric heating. However, if the electricity is produced by burning fossil fuels, then the net emissions of geothermal heating may be com­parable to directly burning the fuel for heat.

For instance, a geothermal heat pump powered by electricity from a com­bine cycle natural gas plant would produce about as much pollution as a natural gas condensing furnace of the same size. Therefore, the environmental value of direct geothermal heating applications is highly dependent on the emission in­tensity of the neighbouring electric power grid.

Plant construction can adversely affect land stability. Enhanced geothermal system can trigger earthquakes as part of hydraulic fracturing.

Geothermal has minimal land and fresh water require­ments. Geothermal plant use 3.5 km 2 per GW of electric generation (not capacity) versus 32 and 12 km 2 for coal facilities and wind form respectively. They use 20 litres of fresh water per MWh versus over 1,000 litres per MWh for nuclear, coal, or oil.

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Geothermal Energy

Geothermal Energy

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Geothermal energy represents the inner heat of the earth, produced largely by the decay of radioactive elements in the mantle and center. The three ways that the heat is found is both wet and dry steam (wet steam has drops of water in it), hot water and dry volcanic rocks. We know that the temperature of the earth at depths of 25 to 50 km range from 200`C to 1000`C. There are areas of the earth where local concentrations of heat occur, just as mineral concentrations do. Most of these are located along oceanic ridges and continental rifts, such as the ‘Ring of Fire’.

Geothermal energy is not free from environmental problems. The steam contains large amounts of hydrogen sulphide with its smell of rotten eggs, and both steam and hot water contain substantial amounts of dissolved minerals, many of which are poisonous to the aquatic life in the streams and rivers into which they are eventually discharged. Also, the removal of steam or water causes the earth to subside in that region.

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Geothermal energy was first used in the era of the ancient Roman bath house, in which they bathed in hot salt springs. Even though the Romans found an easy way to use geothermal energy, and we still enjoy natural hot springs, the process of removing geothermal energy from the earth to use it efficiently is rather difficult. The only three ways to use geothermal energy is for hot water, space heating and generating electricity.

In order to turn geothermal energy into electricity it must be brought up from the earth within a metal cased borehole that was driven deep into the naturally hot ground and put through a geothermal power station, (see diagram). The high pressure steam for these wells is used to drive turbines to generate 300 million kilowatts of electricity each year. Which if you compare all the power that the world produces from all the geothermal power plants, in 1985, to that of one average nuclear power plant the geothermal power will not yet compare.

Due to the acid gases in the steam delicate machinery was getting damaged. The hot water is corrosive and eating away at the pipes and expensive equipment making it even harder to removing it from the earth. The problem was solved by using the acid steam to heat acid-free water. This provided clean steam that would not damage the machinery. As a bonus, useful by-products were extracted from the acid steam, including boric acid, ammonia and carbon dioxide.

The possibility of tapping the heat energy stored in subsurface rocks is also being considered. The plan is to pump water into such regions by means of deep wells, and then pump the heated water back to the surface. One of the major problems is the poor thermal conductivity of rocks, and it is thus very desirable to have hot rocks that lie at relatively shallow depths.

Booth, Basil. Volcanoes and Earthquakes. East Sussex, Wayland Ltd., 1988

Boyle, Desmond. Energy. Morristown, Macdonald Education Ltd., 1980.

Doty, Roy. Where are you going with that Energy?. Garden City, Doubleday & Company Inc., 1922.

McClory, Paul. Focus on Alternative Energy. East Sussex, Wayland Ltd., 1985.

Siddiqi, Toufiq. World Energy. Artarmon, Holt-Saunders Pty. Ltd., 1976.

Smith, Norman. Energy isn’t easy. Toronto, General Publishing Co. Ltd., 1984.

Thomas, John. The Quest for Fuel. East Sussex, Wayland Ltd., 1978.

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Best Earth Essay Examples

Geothermal energy.

350 words | 2 page(s)

Geothermal energy refers to heat energy stored in the Earth’s surface and crust, where energy is naturally produced by the Earth’s seismic activity. Hot springs are the most common observable source of this type of energy being produced naturally. Geothermal energy production is the process of capturing this energy, such as using hot springs to power generators, which in turn produces usable electricity (Boyle, 2004).

The main advantage of geothermal energy is that it is naturally produced, does not create much pollution, and theoretically limitless due to constant seismic activity. However, the main challenge with this form of energy is that it tends to be concentrated in areas where there is notable seismic activity, so only limited areas can be used for generator placement (Barbier, 2002). Also under current technologies, the cost of producing a sizable amount of energy from geothermal sources is substantial, so there is a current barrier in regard to geothermal investments. However, in areas where geothermal activity is present, such as in parts of Nevada, Idaho, Montana and other western states, there is considerable opportunity for the investment of geothermal energy sources that could be used to produce electricity (Dickson and Fanelli, 2013).

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Geothermal energy remains a potential source of sustainable energy that the United States could develop, and in doing so, creating more renewable energy sources that would reduce the reliance on the import of energy and fossil fuels from foreign sources. The barriers to this form of energy are a matter of cost, rather than capability; if these costs can be reduced, and technology can be developed that would be able to transport this available power to parts of the country where there is not as much seismic activity, then geothermal energy has significant potential over the long term. The more the United States is able to generate its own energy, the less reliance it has on foreign energy sources.

  • Barbier, E. (2002). Geothermal energy technology and current status: an overview. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 6(1), 3-65.
  • Boyle, G. (Ed.). (2004). Renewable energy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Dickson, M. H., & Fanelli, M. (2013). Geothermal energy: utilization and technology. Routledge.

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The debates around renewable sources of energy have been going on at least a decade. After more than a century of relying on fossil fuels almost entirely, changing this paradigm in favor of the renewable energy sources may seem difficult and unjustified for some people. However, the situation when fossil fuel was the most efficient and the cheapest source of energy has been left far in the past; nowadays, it is obvious that using oil or gas is not only expensive, but also causes tremendous damage to the planet we live on. Many countries such as Germany or Sweden have already made significant efforts to fix this situation, employing numerous power plants working on the renewable sources of energy; the most effective among these sources is geothermal energy. Using it has a number of benefits which should be considered by governments globally. Geothermal energy—and in particular, the prices of it—does not depend on the world’s economic and political situation as strongly as fossil fuels do. Besides, extracting and transporting fossil fuel adds up to the price of energy produced from it. In its turn, geothermal energy is much cheaper than conventional ones, involving low-running costs and saving up to 80% of costs over fossil fuels ( CEF ).

Environmental friendliness is another benefit of geothermal energy. Being a renewable source, it definitely produces less waste and pollution than conventional energy sources; the exact indexes, however, depend on the systems used for producing geothermal energy. In open-loop geothermal systems, carbon dioxide makes up about 10% of air emissions; an even smaller percentage of emissions is methane. Overall, open-loop geothermal systems produce 0.1 pounds of carbon dioxide and other harmful gases per kilowatt-hour of the energy produced. In closed-loop systems, the greenhouse gases are not released into the atmosphere, although a relatively small amount of such emissions can be produced during a geothermal power plant’s construction. For a comparison, a power plant producing electricity from gas releases up to 2 pounds of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour into the atmosphere, and those power plants that work on coal produce an astonishing 3.6 pounds of greenhouse gases per kilowatt-hour of energy produced. As it can be seen, even less advanced open-loop geothermal systems are much cleaner and safer for ecology than the power plants working on conventional energy sources ( UCS ).

Low maintenance costs make yet another reason why using geothermal power plants should be a priority for many countries. Geothermal heat pump systems require 25% to 50% less energy for work compared to the conventional systems for heating or cooling. Besides, geothermal equipment is less bulky, so it requires less space: due to the very nature of geothermal energy (which is extracted from the bowels of the planet), geothermal power plants have only a few moving parts, all of which can be easily sheltered inside a relatively small building. This is not to mention that the life span of geothermal equipment is rather long: up to 50 years for pipes, and up to 20 years for pumps ( GreenMatch ). All this makes geothermal power stations easy to build and maintain.

As it can be seen, using geothermal energy is more effective than energy produced from conventional sources of energy. Geothermal energy is cheaper, less harmful for the environment, and power plants producing it are easier to build and maintain. These factors make geothermal energy a reasonable and effective alternative to energy produced from fossil fuels, so the governments of the world should consider converting their industries to work on geothermal energy.

Works Cited

  • “Advantages of Geothermal Energy.” ConserveEnergyFuture . N.p., 20 Jan. 2013. Web. 26 Sept. 2016.
  • “Environmental Impacts of Geothermal Energy.” Union of Concerned Scientists . N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2016.
  • “Advantages and Disadvantages of Geothermal Energy.” GreenMatch . N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2016.

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Geothermal Energy and Power Plants

12 Jan 2023

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Geothermal energy remains a significant source of energy at Oregon Institute and the surrounding areas at large. Some of the obstacles faced were the extremely high temperatures which had adverse effects on labor, machines and the environment and thus significantly affecting operations. Another challenge was the hard and corrosive rock. The rocks had to have permutations for the flow of the scalding steam that would, in turn, be used to generate geothermal energy. They were also corrosive and thus could distort the quality of energy being released. Other challenges include carbon (IV) oxide intrusion that could form acid water and thus reducing the quality of the product ( Oit.edu , 2018). Also, there were the well-site environmental concerns and that included ecological degradation issues. Management of the growing environmental conservation concerns was an uphill task. Other problems were lost circulation, minerals and toxic gases among other factors ( Oit.edu , 2018). 

The use of geothermal energy has resulted in several benefits. The energy is eco-friendly, and thus do not incorporate in the form of burning. It gives off small quantities of greenhouse gases. Geothermal uses a small area of land as compared to other energy sources. Another critical importance of geothermal energy is its renewable nature and thus restores a sense of reliability to the national grid and power system (DiPippo, 2015). Further, it is much flexible to bridge the gap that caused by the intermittent renewable sources of energy, for instance, wind and solar. The energy can further be reduced or increased depending on the prevailing situation and demand. It also substantially scalable and thus small power plants can economically set up and tailor their applications present in communities. It is worth-noting that geothermal energy is widely available since the internal heat of the earth is present all over the world and thus can be harnessed using the appropriate machinery (DiPippo, 2015). 

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References 

DiPippo, R. (2015). Geothermal power plants: Evolution and performance assessments.  Geothermics ,  53 , 291-307. 

Oit.edu . Retrieved 20 February 2018, from http://www.oit.edu/docs/default-source/geoheat-center-documents/publications/electric-power/tp128.pdf?sfvrsn=2 

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Home / Essay Samples / Science / Energy / Future Development Of Geothermal Energy

Future Development Of Geothermal Energy

  • Category: Information Science and Technology , Science , Philosophy
  • Topic: Energy , Future

Pages: 1 (578 words)

Views: 1691

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