Solar4Scholars: Geothermal Energy
What is geothermal?
Geothermal energy is heat energy from the earth. Up until a few years ago, the use of geothermal energy was thought to be restricted to very small areas, where there were geysers or volcanic activity. This was confined to a few places like Iceland or around the Pacific Ocean (called the Ring of Fire). Geothermal energy is thought of very differently, now, and is considered by many as one of the most promising forms of renewable energy. It is actually a form of solar energy trapped in the earth and available everywhere.
How does geothermal energy work?
Geothermal energy works on the simple idea that the ground below the surface of the earth remains a relatively constant temperature. In some areas, this may even be an ideal temperature somewhere between 57 and 65 Fahrenheit. This free heating and cooling energy is tapped by technology called ground source heat pumps used to warm buildings in winter and cool them in summer.
Ground source heat pumps tap this geothermal energy using a system of underground piping. These pipes hold water or glycol (a kind of alcohol that is ideal for this purpose) and the heat is then transferred to the inside of the building through a process called heat exchange.
Why should we use geothermal energy?
Geothermal systems greatly reduce the need for any other form of energy. Since they draw heat or cooling from a source that has a stabilized temperature, people save as much as 70 or 80 percent of their heating and air conditioning costs. According to some user surveys, geothermal energy systems have a satisfaction rating of 95 percent.
What are some more benefits?
- Geothermal systems are far quieter than many other forms of heating and air conditioning. There are no noisy fans, blowers or compressors.
- They are also more reliable, as there are fewer parts to break down.
- They are also more compact than most regular heating and cooling systems. The piping is buried underground or in some cases, looped through a pond or well.