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Geothermal Energy, A Successful Alternative?

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Samantha Jones

on 1 December 2011

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Transcript of Geothermal Energy, A Successful Alternative?

Geothermal Energy, A Successful Alternative? What is it Exactly? Geothermal energy is an alternative energy source in which we use heat from the Earth's interior to create power and/or energy. It isn't the direct heat from earth that we use, but the steam created by boiling water. When water is laying on/beneath the Earth's crust or, to put it simply, the ground, the heat heats up the water to a boil. When we take the water/steam and use it in the enrgy process, it becomes a process known as harnessing geothermal energy. How Does It Work? It all starts back with the water cycle. As the water cycle goes through evaporation, condensation, and precipitation, on the fourth step the process of harvesting geothermal Energy begins. When surface run-off is produced from the non-evaporated precipitation, it begins to either pile into bodies of water like lakes or river, or it seeps into the ground and becomes ground water. The ground water will then heat up from the magma that is underneath the surface of the ground. Depending on the depth of where the water lays, some of the water will heat up quicker than others will. When the water is finally heated up enough, we drill into the ground, (Kind of like how you drill for oil or natural gas) recover and send it to a geothermal energy plant. They then send the mixture of water and steam through a series of pipelines to recieve a reasult of high pressured steam and low pressured steam. They then use the steam to power/spin a turbine that is connected to a power generator. Once the power is generated it is then sent to a transmiter where the voltage is increased and sent through the power lines. Any remaining or left over water is pumped back out into the ground where it'll eventually be reheated and reused once more for the same process. Harmful To The Enviornment, Yes Or No? Geothermal energy is a relativly clean, safe, and unharmful energy source. It doesn't really produce any greenhouse gases, except for a really really small amount of Carbon Dioxide and Sulfur compounds. Yes, you're probably thinking "Well, then how is it more safe than the other resources like fossil fuels?". Well, the answears simple: even though it does reproduce some pollution, fossil fuels produce more. The percentage of pollution from geothermal energy to fossil fuels is less than one tenth. So, would you rather have the pollution from geothermal energy or the usage of fossil fuels? Does This Type Of Energy Have A Long History? Yes, geothermal energy does have a long history. This type of energy has been used, although not as it's used today, by the Paleo Indians ten-thousand years ago. They used the steam not only for cooking, bathing, and heating, but also for medicinal purposes. As time moved on, the Itanlians realised that they could use this type of enrgy to remove boric acid from the Larderello Fields. With more time, in 1904, the steam was successfully made into a type of energy that's of more use to people. By 1922, this type of enregy had become a great intrest to scientists in the Untied States, and they made a small geothermal energy plant. This plant was able to produce 250 kilowatts of power, which was enough to power street lights and buildings in the area. Since this plant was microscopical compared to other plants around the globe, and didn't put out as much power as the other ones either, it was shut down. About forty years later, the first major scale geothermal energy plant was made. This one could produce eleven megawatts of pure, eco-friendly energy. This was the huge step towards what we have today. We have atleast sixty main plants, and some more little ones across the U.S.A. This history made geothermal energy what it is today. Who Discovered This Form Of Energy? Indians were the first people who found and/or discovered geothermal energy. Even though they discovered it, it wasn't used for industrial uses at the time. They used it for daily purposes such as cooking food, heating water for baths, etc. Geothermal energy was discovered for industrial uses by the Italians in the 1800's. From there on, the outlook and benefits of this energy began to spread and become known globally. From there on, it began to adapt to a more modern form of energy usage. Costs V.S Benefits Advantages Geothermal engy does not contribute much to the greenhouse effect, and since there is hardly any pollution produced, it keeps the atmosphere cleaner and safer. The power plant stations don't take up much space, so the impact and/or effect on the enviornment is relatively small. There really is no fuel needed. Once you have set up the station, the energy is basically a free resource. The only energy really needed is for pumping out water from the ground, and that energy can be taken and used from the enrgy produced anyways. Disadvantages Finding places to put a geothermal enrgy station is hard because you have to find a place where the rock is easy to drill through, and not to mention the fact that they rock below also has to be of certain temperature. There is a case in which a geothermal energy plant can "run out of steam". This means that the hot rocks cool down and are no longer hot enough to create steam, so that would mean no energy. This could remain the same for decades until the plant gets the heat back. Hazardeous gases and minerals can come up from the ground and they are hard to safely dispose of. This resource is renewable so long as we don't cool down the rocks by over using them. These pipes are used to pump out water The heated ground water then undergoes more heating. The steam/heat that is trapped or harnessed is then used to turn these turbines. The energy the goes through these power lines to homes and cities. The left over water is then pumped back into the ground from these pipes to reheat and be used again later. What Country Or Place In The World Uses Geothermal Energy The Most? Geothermal energy is becoming a big part or ideal source of retaining energy for the world. The counrty that uses the most Geothermal Energy would be, The United States. We produce atleast 3,086 mega-watts of power from seventy-seven different power plants across the nation. The biggest geothermal power plants can be found in California, the Geysers. With fifteen billion kilowatt hours each year, this energy resource is relatively better than burning twenty-five million barrels of oil or six million barrels of coal. A Debate Or Issue That Is Being Considered. One issue being debated would have to do with wether or not installing these sites is worth the danger or risk to the workers. First of all, you must drill multiple times before finding the right spot with both, enough heat and water. Once they do find the right spot, the debate begins: Is it safe to install? An incident in Basel, Switzerland lead to a series of triggered earthquakes that reached almost a four on the Richter scale. Another risk is that, geothermal energy hot spots tend to be located near active volcanic and seismic spots. If an earthquake occurs or avolcanic eruption, we would have trouble keeping the power plant intact, plus it would cost a lot of money to maintain. It also puts workers at risk. So, is the hazards and risks worth the energy that will be obtained in the process? How Does This Energy Interact With Everyday Life? This type of energy interactes with everyday life in many different kinds of ways. One way that it interacts with life daily is by heating and cooling buildings. The heat from underground can be pumped through and underground pipeline. The pipes are usually under a pond or lake. When the heat travels into the building, the water is seperated from the steam and the steam is then pumped into air ducts. With this done, the building is then heated. In the summer, the process iis in reverse. Instead of the heat being added to the building, the heat is sucked away from it instead. With this process, the building becomes cooler. Even if the water isn't pumped through pipes, the geothermal energy can be found and used in hot springs, spas, and for laundry in some parts of the world. So, even though this type of energy is used in different ways and stages, it is still geothermal energy none the less. Is This Alternative Cleaner Than Fossil Fuels, Why Or Why Not? Geothermal energy is cleaner and safer to use than fossil fuels because:
It doesn't pollute the air
It's energy comes from water, which can be pumped back into the ground and be reused safely.
It requires no burning, so no pollutants will escape into the air.
The Earth's interior heat will never run out, reguardless of the time of day or season.
Even thoguh it's expensive to install, the energy you recieve pays for itself.
With gas prices going up higher everyday, it's going to be much cheaper in the long run.
This will also allow us to harness this power in the U.S.A, and not rely that much on other countries for their resources.
We won't have to import the necessities for getting energy, so we will save money.
What Is This Energy Used For Daily? This type of energy lends itself to multiple and various types of uses. It can be used for simple hot water, to gaining electricity for your house. With this geothermal power produced, we can power entire cities. We can provide lights for offices, resturants, and simple everyday houses, as well as heat. We can allow a good venelation system. We can use the hot water for other purposes like spa resorts and salons. It saves money, so it alos lends itself to the cost benefits. It is also very efficient, so this helps the whole entire world, not just one specific area.This alternative will also alows us to become more independent, and less dependent on others, since we won't have to trade as much with other nations. Is It Or Is It Not A Sustainable Resource? Honestly, no I do not really think this is a sustainable resource. Do I think that with a little more research and effort into the entire process will make it so? Yes, I do. I mean, even though this is a very clean way of producing energy, and it produces a lot, I just think that we aren't ready to truly rely on it as a highly dependant source of energy. It has it's down falls, and one of those is cost. I mean, if we were to depend on it, we would need various sites for the power plants. That takes time and money. If we could get the whole nation, or a good part of it to contribute, then maybe we could make it happen. Another flaw to this would be that, in order for it to work, we need geothermal hot spots. These aren't always that easy to find, let alone install a plant there. We would have to be cautious because many of the hot spots are next to volcanic and/or seismic areas, and that could endanger workers and prevent production immensly. There are different problems that need to, and shall be solved eventually, but until then this type of energy isn't really a reliable source for our energy needs. What Does The Future Hold For This Energy? This form of energy might or might not have a very bright future ahead of it. Even though it is altogether renewable, with the slight exception of maybe the water, it is still limited. I mean, with this energy, it is either there or it isn't. If we run out of geothermal hot spots to use, then we have reached a limit. If this happened then we must continue to use the others more so, straining our needs on them just as we do with fossil fuels today. If we do end up relying on this energy source, it'll cost more money as the hot spots begin to disappear because we'll have to drill deeeper into the ground. The deeper we drill, the more problems we are faced with.You need money to fix the problems. So, to conclude this article, I would have to say that I don't fore see geothermal enery becoming a highly depended on alternate energy source. Cost Benefits The End, Thanks For Watching!
~Samantha Jones
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