GEOTHERMAL

GEOTHERMAL

Geothermal energy, the heat inside the earth, is captured via power plants that generate steam to make electricity, or via heat pumps.

In the former, utility-scale method, wells are drilled deep into the earth to pump steam or hot water to the surface at high pressure. At the surface, the pressure is dropped, causing the water to turn into steam. The steam spins a turbine connected to a generator, producing electricity. In a cooling tower, the steam condenses back into water, which is then pumped back into the earth to begin the process anew.

Geothermal power plants are usually found in areas with hot springs, geysers, or volcanic activity. In the United States, they are primarily situated in the western states and Hawaii, with California generating the most electricity from this renewable source.

At the residential level, ground source heat pumps can heat and cool houses, and heat swimming pools. In this setting, heat is transferred by pumping water  or a refrigerant through a loop of vertical or horizontal pipes buried just below ground level, where the temperature is constant. During the winter, the liquid absorbs warmth from the earth and it is pumped to the structure above. The liquid cools following the heat transfer and is pumped back underground, repeating the process. In warm weather, the process runs in reverse.

Ground-source heat pumps run on electricity, a more environmentally friendly heating and cooling system than fossil fuel-based technology, depending upon how that electricity is powered. If powered by renewables, the electricity is emissions-free. Geothermal energy works in most climates, and can offer up to a 70% reduction in heating and a 50% decrease in cooling costs. Up-front installation costs are high, but systems generally pay for themselves in five to seven years. Ground-source heat pumps can require alterations to the landscape, and open-loop geothermal systems, while uncommon, can contaminate groundwater.

For climates with moderate heating and cooling needs, you can install heat pumps without geothermal (and, therefore, without digging into the ground). Air-source heat pumps move heat, in the winter, from the cool outdoors into your home and, in the heat of the summer, move heat from your home into the outdoors. A vastly cheaper way to heat and cool. Much more here.

A Canadian company recently sent us a heat pump glossary which you might find useful.

State and municipal level goals, and mandates to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, are among the factors expected to spur growth in geothermal energy.

CURRENT NEWS

KEY RESOURCES

Geothermal explained

09/24/20
Geothermal reservoirs are naturally occurring areas of hydrothermal resources. These reservoirs are deep underground and are largely undetectable above ground.

Are geothermal heat pumps right for you? Comparing pros and cons

09/22/20
Ground source heat pumps (GSHPs) are an innovative heating and cooling technology, but they may not be suitable for every property. It’s important to understand the pros and cons of ground source heat pumps, and…

What is geothermal energy?

04/10/20
In the global push to end reliance on fossil fuels, green energy sources like solar and wind power have gotten lots of attention. But geothermal energy is another environmentally friendly energy source. It’s the underground…

What is Geothermal?

04/10/20
The Geothermal Resources Council (GRC), Geothermal Energy Association (GEA), and Geothermal Exchange Organization (GEO) have released guidance for U.S. states on meeting new clean energy standards from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Geothermal energy

04/10/20
This key renewable source covers a significant share of electricity demand in countries like Iceland, El Salvador, New Zealand, Kenya, and Philippines and more than 90% of heating demand in Iceland. The main advantages are…

The Forgotten Renewable: Geothermal Energy Production Heats Up

04/10/20
Three and a half hours east of Los Angeles lies the Salton Sea, a manmade oasis in the heart of the Mojave Desert. It was created in 1905, when a canal broke and the Colorado…

5 Things to Know About Geothermal Power

04/10/20
Geothermal energy—energy derived from the heat of the earth—can be harnessed both as a source of renewable electricity as well as directly for heating and cooling applications. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) funds geothermal…

Geothermal: Energy we can all agree on

04/10/20
Heat and cool your home using the Earth's natural temperature. In these divisive times, geothermal may be the one thing we can all agree on – even if the reasons why are completely different.

MORE NEWS

Geothermal heating district could rise in Mattapan

By Jon Chesto   02/11/20  
City officials say they’re backing the project because it would further Boston’s ‘commitment to climate action’.

Most of the University of Utah’s electricity will now be fueled by renewable energy

By Courtney Tanner   02/11/20  
It’s going to be much more sustainable to light up Rice-Eccles Stadium, the hospital at the University of Utah and all of the classrooms on campus in between.

Geothermal energy: Drilling a 3,000-meter deep well

02/10/20  
Destabilizing the precarious equilibrium at depth with geothermal wells may reactivate the geological layers causing earthquakes. Researchers have studied the seismic activity linked to a geothermal drilling in search of supercritical fluids. They discovered that…

2020 to become a milestone year for the global geothermal energy sector

By Alexander Richter   01/27/20  
Going into a new decade, geothermal energy is well positioned in the efforts on a global energy transition providing heating, cooling and electricity around the clock, so the International Geothermal Association.

More Energy Expected To Come From Geothermal In California

By Brooke Ruth, Mark Sauer  Photo By Kris Arciaga   01/27/20  
Two new geothermal plants are in the works in the state, one is in the Salton Sea area and the other is in northern California. The growth in geothermal is believed to be spurred by…

California needs clean energy after sundown. Is the answer under our feet?

By Sammy Roth  Photo by Mark Boster   01/22/20  
After years of playing third fiddle to solar and wind power, geothermal energy is poised to start growing again in California. Three local energy providers have signed contracts this month for electricity from new geothermal…

Geothermal Energy Research in Port of Rotterdam Enters Next Phase

01/21/20  
Shell Geothermal BV and the Port of Rotterdam Authority are investigating the possibilities for geothermal energy in the Port of Rotterdam’s western section. The two companies have received an exploration permit from the Ministry of…

How A Climate Change Nonprofit Got Eversource Thinking About A Geothermal Future

By Bruce Gellerman  Photo by Bruce Gellerman   01/13/20  
Natural gas utilities in Massachusetts are facing an existential crisis: they could be out of business by mid-century. That's because the state's 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act requires emissions from burning fossil fuels — like…

Geothermal Deal Could Lower Hawaii Island Electric Bills

01/06/20  
A Hawaii island geothermal power company that was knocked offline by a volcanic eruption hopes to produce lower cost electricity under a new agreement with a state utility, company officials said.

Construction Begins on Geothermal District Heating Pipeline in Iceland

Photo by Andri Guðlaugsson   12/27/19  
Construction of a new geothermal district heating pipeline is underway in rural South Iceland to the small town of Höfn. The pipeline stretches from its source nearly 20 km away.

Diversifying the Northeast power mix: Is offshore wind + storage key to the region’s reliability?

By Herman K. Trabish   07/02/19  
ffshore wind and battery storage are about to come into the Northeastern power mix in a big way. With more states requiring offshore wind targets, almost 18 GW are mandated to come online by 2035…

Supercharged geothermal energy could power the planet

By Julia Rosen  Photo by Getty Images   10/17/18  
The next generation of geothermal plants will unlock more of Earth's bountiful, underground energy and could allow the technology to finally fulfil its promise

Geothermal Energy Could Provide All the Energy the World Will Ever Need

By Unni Skoglund   09/16/10  
There is a solution for the world’s insatiable energy needs. It is CO2-free and safe. And it’s located right under our feet. Ever since Jules Verne wrote in 1864 about a trip to the Earth’s…