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Show: Geothermal Renewable Energy for Our Home

Show_GeothermalA Brief History

Geothermal energy harnesses the free energy stored in the earth. The use of energy from the earth is not a new concept. Archeological evidence shows that geothermal resources were used in North America by human more than 10,000 years ago. The Paleo-Indians relied on hot springs for warmth, cleansing, and healing. Today, hot springs and geysers remain popular tourist attractions.

In the late 1800s, people started to use heat from hot springs as an energy source for buildings. In the early 1900s, pioneers tested the idea of geothermal power plants. The first large-scale geothermal power plant began operation in the mid-60s at The Geysers. Since then, government programs and incentives were put in place to encourage the development of the industry. The use of geothermal energy continues to grow today.

How Does It Work

Geothermal energy is used for power generation as well as directly used for heating/cooling and industrial applications. Depending on the usage, the energy can be accessed at different depths, from shallow ground with more moderate temperature, to hot water/rock found a few miles beneath the Earth's surface, to super high temperature magma deep down.

One way to generate power from geothermal sources is to utilize the heat from hot water reservoirs. Turbines are either turned by the steam from the reservoirs or by the vapor of a working fluid heated by the hot water. Most geothermal hot water reservoirs in the US are located in the western states, Alaska and Hawaii.

In shallow ground, the earth maintains a nearly constant temperature between 50 to 60F. Heat tapped  from this level can be used directly for everyday usage and is available almost anywhere. A geothermal system consists of a heat pump, an air delivery system (ductwork), and heat exchanger. In the winter, the heat pump removes heat from the heat exchanger and pumps it into the indoor air delivery system for warming. In the summer, the process is reversed.

Advantages of Geothermal Energy

Geothermal energy is a clean, renewable, and homegrown power source. Better yet, it is available all day. It produces 1/6 of carbon dioxide that a relatively clean natural-gas-fueled power plant produces, and very little (if any) nitrous oxide or sulfur-bearing gases. Furthermore, in a closed cycle operations, emission is close to nothing. If harnessed with care, especially with deep wells, geothermal is a great sustainable yet affordable energy source. Geothermal energy usage accounts for less than 1% of all energy sources. There is a lot of room for growth.

Tune In to learn more about geothermal and how to implement it at your home or business.

References: Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewal Energy, Renewable Energy World, Institute for Energy Research

Graphic courtesy of Climate Master

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