Geothermal Energy

Like other forms of renewable energy, such as wind and solar energy, geothermal energy makes use of energy that is natural and abundant. Geothermal energy comes from the steam and heat that is trapped beneath the Earth’s surface. By drilling deep into the Earth’s crust and pumping the trapped steam to the surface, this heat energy can be used to produce electricity, to heat homes, and to power industrial processes.

Nearly all modern power plants make use of steam power to generate electricity. In coal-burning power plants, the heat produced by the burning coal is used to create steam pressure, which spins a turbine, creating electricity. Geothermal power plants make use of the same principle, but instead of using combustion to create steam, the steam is pumped directly from the Earth. In this way, geothermal energy prevents carbon dioxide emissions, since it requires no combustion.

However, unlike wind and solar energy, geothermal energy is not as widely available. In fact, there are only two known sources of geothermal energy in the United States: The Geysers in northern California, and Old faithful in Yellowstone National Park, in Wyoming. Since Yellowstone is a protected national park, the only geothermal power plants in the U.S. are found in the Mayacamas Mountains, 72 miles north of San Francisco. This is where a geothermal rich area known as The Geysers is located. The power plants at The Geysers are capable of producing 725 megawatts of electricity, and provide one-fourth of the green energy used in California.

Not only is geothermal energy renewable, it is also emissions free. The only byproduct created by geothermal power plants is liquid water. And although it isn’t widely available like wind and solar energy, geothermal energy is capable of producing electricity around the clock, something wind and solar energy are incapable of doing.

But geothermal energy is used for more than just producing electricity. It can also used as a climate control system in businesses and homes. Although air temperature fluctuates throughout the year, the ground temperature stays relatively constant. Just a few feet beneath the surface, ground temperatures stay between 50ºF-60ºF year-round. By using a liquid coolant and a heat exchanger, the heat energy trapped underground can be used to heat homes in the winter, and cool them in the summer. Despite its scarcity, geothermal energy is still one of the cleanest and most useful forms of renewable energy. 

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