Geothermal Energy and Its Advantages
Geothermal energy essentially means the heat from inside the earth. Here is an account of generating geothermal power and heating from it, and the advantages of geothermal energy.
The earth’s core is just 1000 degrees C less hot than the sun. Hence, all of the planet’s geothermal energy can be tapped for generating geothermal power, which can provide electricity in the large amounts required by a power-hungry world.
What Exactly Is Geothermal Energy?
The term ‘geothermal’ has been derived from two Greek words, ‘geo’, which means the earth and ‘therme’, which means heat. Hence, geothermal energy basically means the heat from the inside of the earth. The hot water and steam that are produced within the earth can be used for generating electricity and heating buildings. Therefore, geothermal energy is a renewable source of energy since the heat is produced continuously within the earth and the rainfall replenishes the water.
Geothermal Heating From Inside The Earth
The core of the earth, which is about 4000 miles below the surface, is where geothermal energy is generated. Temperatures that can sometimes be even hotter than the surface of the sun are produced incessantly within the earth by radioactive particles decaying slowly, a process that occurs in all rocks. The earth is made up of a number of layers: the core; the mantle; and the crust.
- The Core: The core of the earth itself comprises of two layers – an outer layer which is made up of extremely hot molten rock, known as magma, and an inner core made of solid iron.
- The Mantle: This layer, which comprises of rock and magma, envelopes the core and has a thickness of around 1800 miles.
- The Crust: The earth’s outermost layer is called the crust, which basically comprises of all the land that makes up the floor of the oceans and the continents. The crust is about 15-35 miles in thickness on the continents and of about 3-5 miles in thickness beneath the oceans.
The crust of the earth is made up of several broken pieces, which are known as plates. The hot magma from deep down below rises up close to the surface of the earth at the junctures of these plates. These are the places where volcanoes are formed. The lava that spews from volcanoes is made up partly of magma. The heat from this magma is absorbed by the water and rocks that occur deep beneath the earth’s surface. The temperature of the water and the rocks get increasingly hotter the deeper down you go below the earth’s surface.
People all over the world have been using geothermal energy to heat their homes by digging wells that go down very deep and pumping up the hot steam or water to the surface.
Generating Geothermal Power
As has been explained above, superheated substances in the form of magma, that contains enormous energy and power, which is quite evident every time a volcano erupts, can be tapped for creating geothermal power. Some of these substances also rise to the surface in the form of hot water and steam, which spew out from natural vents. Therefore, we can make artificial vents as well as create containment chambers where the magma can be kept, and turn all this geothermal energy into electricity, which can be used to heat and light our homes. In order to set up a geothermal power plant, a well will have to be dug where there is a good source of superheated fluid or magma. Pipes would then be fitted, which would go down into the source, and then the fluids would be forced up to the surface in order to produce the required steam. This steam would then be used to rotate a turbine engine, thus generating electricity, or geothermal power.
The Advantages Of Geothermal Energy
These days, there is an increasing concern as well as awareness of the necessity of using sources of power that are not carbon-based. This is quite evident by Al Gore and the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) winning the Nobel Peace Prize recently. Here are some of the advantages of geothermal energy:
- Geothermal energy does not create any pollution because it is the earth’s energy that is used.
- Geothermal energy is also very efficient, because after a site is located and a geothermal power plant is built, the efforts required to channel it are negligible.
- Moreover, there is no necessity of geothermal power plants to be as large in sized as atomic power plants, huge dams, and electrical plants, thus there is less impact on the environment.
- Plus, it is an alternative source of energy, which means that by using it we get less dependent on coal and oil.
- Perhaps the most important advantage of geothermal energy is that, unlike energy derived from carbon-based sources, geothermal energy will never run out. And because it is ubiquitous, its cost will never continue to rise with time. Hence, after the costs of the investigation to seek out the source and building the power plant are recouped, in the end, geothermal energy will be very cheap.