Believe it or not, we have been using geothermal energy for millennia. That’s right. Before we had cars and planes and central heating, earlier humans were using geothermal energy for cooking and heating. Now, it is time to go back to these simpler times and take a leaf out of our predecessor’s book. It is time for geothermal to make a come back and become a big player in our global energy mix.
Geothermal energy is simply energy that is harnessed from the natural heat that comes from the planet. Dig below the surface of the earth and you will find that the temperature gets increasingly hotter until you reach molten rock, known as magma. The thermal energy we want to get our hands on is much closer to the surface than magma and can found by digging less than a mile into the earth’s crust. Eventually we will hit an underground reservoir of hot water and steam and it is from here that we will extract our geothermal energy.
How Is Geothermal Energy Extracted?
Geothermal energy is a sustainable way to heat our homes and generate electricity and extracting it does very little harm to the environment. First a well is made and then a geothermal heat pump system is used to pump hot water out. The heat is extracted from this hot water and the cool water is then pumped back into the ground. Once it has heated back up again, the process begins again and can go on forever. The constant temperature of the earth makes this one of the most reliable forms of sustainable energy.
What Are the Advantages?
There are a lot of reasons why geothermal should become a bigger part of our energy mix but here are some of the best. Firstly, the energy can be extracted without the need for burning any fossil fuels. That means you don’t need to worry about carbon emissions being released in the process. Secondly, as mentioned before, geothermal energy is consistent. Unlike wind or solar power, which depend on a windy or sunny day respectively, geothermal energy does not depend on any external factors. Finally, geothermal energy is cheap to produce. Experts estimate that, compared with fossil fuels, direct geothermal energy use can be up to 80% less expensive.
Are There Any Negatives?
If geothermal energy is so great, why aren’t we all using it all the time? Well, geothermal still has a few environmental side effects. One of the primary concerns over the production of geothermal energy is the release of hydrogen sulphide, a polluting gas that smells like rotten eggs. Not only does this harm the environment, but the unpleasant smell means well cannot be dug near residential areas. Another issue is that while geothermal sites are consistent with the heat they give off, eventually the areas around the wells may cool down. This would mean digging new wells, which uses more energy and money.
Widespread use of geothermal energy is very much within the realm of possibilities over the next decade or so. However, there is some fine tuning and problem solving that needs to be done before we can add the sustainable energy into our global energy mix. Until then, let’s just keep an eye on what our scientists are capable of doing.