The slow decay of radioactive particles in the earth’s core, a process that happens in all rocks, produces geothermal energy.
Enrich Your Learning:
- Geothermal energy, form of energy conversion in which heat energy from within Earth is captured.
- Geothermal energy is a renewable energy source because heat is continuously produced inside the earth.
- People use geothermal heat for bathing, to heat buildings, and to generate electricity.
Geothermal energy use can be divided into three categories:
- Direct-use applications,
- Geothermal heat pumps (GHPs), and
- Electric power generation.
- It can be extracted without burning a fossil fuel such as coal, gas, or oil.
- Geothermal fields produce only about one-sixth of the carbon dioxide that a relatively clean natural-gas-fueled power plant produces.
- Binary plants release essentially no emissions.
- Unlike solar and wind energy, geothermal energy is always available, 365 days a year.
- It’s also relatively inexpensive; savings from direct use can be as much as 80 percent over fossil fuels.
- Geothermal energy can be used as an efficient heat source in small end-use applications such as greenhouses, but the consumers have to be located close to the source of heat.
- The capital of Iceland, Reykjavik, is heated mostly by geothermal energy.
- Geothermal energy has a major environmental benefit because it offsets air pollution that would have been produced if fossil fuels were the energy source.
- Geothermal energy has a very minor impact on the soil – the few acres used look like a small light-industry building complex.
- Since the slightly cooler water is reinjected into the ground, there is only a minor impact, except if there is a natural geyser field close by.
- The main concern is the release of hydrogen sulfide, a gas that smells like rotten egg at low concentrations.
- Another concern is the disposal of some geothermal fluids, which may contain low levels of toxic materials.
- Although geothermal sites are capable of providing heat for many decades, eventually specific locations may cool down.