Producing Energy From Geothermal Resources
There are several types of energy used in the world that are considered eco-friendly. These energy types include solar, which harnesses the power of the sun, and hydroelectric, which uses the power of water to generate electricity. One often neglected ecologically sound energy source that should be grouped with the others is geothermal energy. Geothermal energy involves using the Earth’s own heat to create energy and warmth to be used by people.
Geothermal energy is so named because it derives from the Greek words for “earth heat”, “geo” and “therme”. Extreme amounts of heat are generated in the Earth’s core, which reaches temperatures of up to 9,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The Earth’s core then transfers heat to the mantle, a crust of rock surrounding the core. This rock liquefies due to the intense heat becoming magma (molten rock). In this magma layer, water collects in columns or reserves. This trapped water, which can be heated to temperatures of about 700 degrees Fahrenheit, is known as a geothermal reservoir. When engineers want to use geothermal energy, they “tap” in to this geothermal water and use the resulting hot water and steam for various purposes.
Geothermal energy plants work by using the steam resulting from tapping into the geothermal water reservoirs to power turbines. These turbines spin producing electricity which can then be used to power industries or even residential areas. The first geothermically engineered power plant was built in Italy in 1904.
These days, roughly 7000 megawatts of electricity is produced by geothermal power plants per year. Geothermal power plants are located in 21 countries throughout the world. In the United States alone, enough geothermal power is generated per year to be the equivalent to the burning of 60 million barrels of oil, to wit, geothermal energy is a major source of power.
Geothermal energy has been used by cultures throughout history for thousands of years. The process used to harness geothermal energy has always been relatively simple compared to that of other energy processes, and the components used are familiar to everyone. The concept of using super hot water from the Earth’s magma layers may seem high tech, but once you have tapped into this resource, it is easy to maintain and use as a continual power source.
The best analogy for geothermal energy production is another alternative energy source. It works in the same way as hydropower. Water is used to spin turbines which produce electricity. In the case of geothermal energy, however, the water comes from the internal chambers of the Earth in, most often, the form of steam.
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