Geothermal Power... Renewable Energy Source?
For thousands of years hot water from naturally occurring sources has been used by mankind to cook food and for
The therapeutic benefits of this naturally occurring source of energy are well known but for most people
geothermal power is an unknown quantity.
The center of the earth is composed of molten rock at enormous pressure which breaks through the outer crust of
the planet in forms such as volcanoes and geysers.
Geothermal power essentially taps into this latent surface heat and uses it to create steam to power
Drilling holes is not always necessary as in some areas of the planet such as Iceland and New Zealand there is
sufficient naturally escaping steam to power turbines after it is trapped and conveyed to a power plant.
In those cases where plants have to go deep below the surface, water has to be supplied to the base of wells
drilled to depths of several hundred meters, and the resultant steam is filtered before entering turbines.
Sounds such a simple, eco-friendly solution to providing power that it is a wonder why more is not made of
In reality, the demands for water and the ugly piping over the surrounding land to the power plant make
geothermal energy generation not such an attractive option for the environment.
There are other benefits however. No product is released in to the air which is harmful to populations nearby.
No demand is placed on fossil fuels or their extraction.
Maintenance is minimal and the plants are largely energy self sufficient as well. Most of the existing
generation stations worldwide are small in comparison to coal and nuclear constructions.
In fact in some areas a small turbine can be used for small communities without any noticeable effect on the
But there is an effect on the environment that over time has become more and more apparent.....a significant
lowering of the water table and resulting subsidence in surrounding land.
Ultimately this can lead to the plant losing supply of steam altogether or for deeper drilling to take place
over a wider area.
The resulting network of piping becomes an eyesore and derelict plants even more so!
For the individual there is little likelihood of planning permission being given to sink new wells, but with
volcanic activity being haphazard new naturally occurring steam vents may occur in some regions that will need to
be capped anyway.
To use this source of almost renewable energy when it occurs would be a waste.
For some cities the water from the plants can be used to keep pathways and roads ice free in winter without
concentrations of salt and other materials.
One other beneficial use is to heat greenhouses in winter for the local production of fresh foods that may
otherwise have to be grown and transported long distances.
Under floor heating in large arenas is also possible at a fraction of the cost and energy of other options as
well as space heating in public buildings.
As other forms of power generation become even more expensive and the emissions from these increasingly
recognized as a cause of global warming, geothermal energy may be worth even closer investigation.
The heat below the earth's crust is largely untapped and plants that recycle water may solve one of the less
attractive features of this energy.
In any case in the USA the opportunities that have already been taken in places such as Hawaii and California
demonstrate the potential for future plants.
Technology may show one day that this may be a significant source of power for future generations of
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