Geothermal energy – what is it, and can it be a good renewable energy

Geothermal energy is the energy harvested from the warmth of the Earth core, which can be trapped to produce electricity in geothermal power plants that use it to warm water for industry, agriculture, bathing and cleansing. Even though it is in use worldwide, its real potential as an alternative energy source is not fully utilised, thus geothermal may offers an actual alternative in future environment-friendly energy source.

There are several ways to use this geothermal power:
Wells of geothermal power.
A geothermal reservoir is a mass of fractured rock in the Earth’s crust, saturated with hot water or steam. In order to bring the water or steam to the surface, wells are drilled into them. If the fluid coming out is hot enough, bubbles will occur and cause the water to flow to the surface, if not, the wells may need a pump. Power plants make use of the hot water or steam from the wells by redirecting it to a steam turbine and a generator that produce electricity. These plants are working much like any power plant. The hot water can also be used directly to heat buildings.

Ground Source Heat pumps
When the sun light shines on the soil its heat energy is absorbed by the ground. Then, ground source heat pumps can extract this energy, and use it for space heating. The energy source that is actually used for ground source heat pumps is the sun and not the heat from the earth.

In the UK, the constant ground source heat temperature is around 12ºC and can be utilised to heat and cool buildings. Pipes that are buried underground in a ditch or in a vertical well and water is pumped right through it, heated by the underground energy.

Heat Pumps do need some power to operate. However for 1 unit of energy they consume, they can generate up to four units of electricity! The energy that is generated by a ground source heat pump can be considered 100% renewable if the power to operate the pump comes from solar electric panels or a wind turbine for example.

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