Geothermal Energy – Using the Heat of the Earth
Geothermal energy – a form of energy obtained from within the earth, originating in its core; also produced by extracting the earth’s internal heat.

Whether it is the burning of fossil fuels or the decay of radioactive rocks, heat drives the most modernbase-load electricity generation. There is, however, another way to obtain this and that is by geothermal energy. This is heat from within the earth. We can recover this heat as steam or hot water to buildings, generate electricity among many other things.

Heat is constantly produced inside the earth, therefore we can consider geothermal energy a renewable energy source. It also has the potential to help mitigate global warming if widely deployed in place of fossil fuels. Depending on how it is used determines the impact it has on the environment. Direct use and heating applications have almost no negative impact on the environment.

Where is geothermal energy located? It is usually found in geothermal reservoirs. Most of the geothermal activity in the world occurs in an area called the Ring of Fire. This goes around the edges of the Pacific Ocean. Sometimes, it can also find its way to the surface in the form of volcanoes and fumaroles, hot springs and geysers.

The Geysers dry steam reservoir in Northern California is the largest known dry steam field in the world and has produced electricity since 1960. Therefore it is safe to say that California generates the most electricity from geothermal energy.

There are three main uses of geothermal energy. Direct use includes a production facility, a mechanical system and a disposal system. A production facility, usually a well, brings hot water to the surface. A mechanical system delivers heat to the space or processes. A disposal system, an injection well or storage pond, is used to receive the cooled geothermal fluid.

Direct uses of hot water have been used since ancient times. Hot mineral springs have been used for bathing, cooking and heating. Hot springs have been used for bathing since the Paleolithic times. In 1830, Asa Thompson charged one dollar each for the use of the three spring-fed baths in a wooden tub. Also, many believe that hot, mineral-rich waters have natural healing powers.

Direct use of geothermal energy in homes and commercial operations is much less expensive that using traditional fuels. Approximately 70 countries made direct use of a total of 270 petajoules of global heating in 2004. In 1984, a 20-MW plant began generating power at Utah’s Roosevelt Hot Springs. Also, Nevada’s first geothermal electricity is generated when a 1.3-MW binary power plant began its operations.

Not only is it cleaner, geothermal energy requires no fuel so it would be immune to fuel cost fluctuations.