Given the current situation in our world regarding energy and conservation, alternative energy is becoming increasingly valued. Money funneled into research regarding the use and implementation of alternative energy forms is increasing as governments and private sectors are realizing the many positive potential outcomes.
Geothermal energy has emerged as one of the most efficient, clean, and green forms of alternative energy. The beauty and usefulness of geothermal energy lies in its renewable nature. Geothermal the name refers to the nature of the energy. It is derived from the heat of the earth. It comes from many sources upon the earth, including shallow hot water sources as those in Yellowstone, and even deeper within the earth’s surface. The heat harnessed is the product of the earth’s magma. The deeper into the earth one digs, the more heat will be produced. Just below our earth, about 10 feet below, there is is a constant temperature of between 50°C and 60°C. With proper techniques and machinery, this heat can be harnessed. Geothermal heat pumps are the machines used to pump the heat from the earth and onto the generators that transform the energy to usable energy.
How a geothermal heat pump is made enables its main functions of transferring the heat. For starters, it consists of a ductwork system which is responsible for delivering the heat. There is also a heat exchanger is a system of pipes buried in the shallow ground. These two main mechanisms are responsible for maintaining the heated air exchange and transferring system.
Effort is being made to find more geothermal reservoir sources in order to gather more heat.
After the heat is harnessed, it is transferred to a geothermal power plant. In the plant, the heat is used to warm up steam to turn a turbine or generator. The generator is the source of electricity.
From the generator, the electricity is then distributed to buildings for practical use.
There are a few different types of geothermal energies each derived from similar but slightly different sources. Liquid dominated plants are one type of geothermal plants. They thrive from the heat energy derived well below the earth where temperatures exceed 200°C. Most of these are found in areas surrounding the Pacific Ocean and other rift zones. These zones are especially preferable for this type of plant because they are “hot spots.” Being located in rift zones, they are perfectly expose to hot areas of the earth by being closer to the earth’s magma. This access is critical for the temperature of the trapped air which is to be harnessed for the generation of electricity. This type of plant does not require pumps, unlike other types. Harnessed heated steam is separated from its liquid counterpart by cyclone separators. The liquid is then stored for later use. Various plants of this type generate different amounts of electricity, generally varying across lines of size and availability of geothermal energy. For lower temperature areas, geothermal energy is still harnessed. Plants in lower temperature zones generally generate less electricity than its LDR counterpart.
Enhanced geothermal is another type of geothermal plant. This particular type works by injecting water directly into wells in order for it to be heated. This requires drilling in order to expand the size of the reservoir in order for it to hold a substantial amount of water. Large scale EGSs are ones that will have more drilling than small scale EGSs.
As much as geothermal power plants are revolutionary in many aspects in which they have transformed how we harness energy for human use, they have their own downsides which are strongly linked to the environment. Firstly, because it requires some drilling to be done in order to access the heat trapped beneath the earth, there is environmental damage done to natural habitats for animals. Also, drawing the heated water and air from beneath the earth brings about mixtures of gases from underneath that are pollutants contributing to acid rain. These gases include Methane, Ammonia, and Hydrogen Sulfide. These acidic and volatile chemicals are sometimes accumulated within the plant. However, to combat this natural occurrence, plants have equipped themselves with emission control systems which are in place to reduce the exhaust. This has been extremely effective in plants which have implemented this mechanism.