Geothermal Power Plant

How Does Geothermal Energy Work?

A geothermal power plant is a facility that harnesses the heat from within the Earth's core in order to generate electricity or provide heat for residential and commercial use.

Essentially, the heat from the earth is captured in steam or water form and converted into useful energy.

Geothermal energy is the result of volcanic activity, solar energy absorbed on the surface of the earth, and the decay of minerals. The good news is that geothermal heat is renewable, which means it is consistently available. It won't ever run out!

There is enough geothermal energy available to power the world several times over. So why isn't it being utilized more exclusively?

The use of oil, coal, and gas have long been used as primary fuel sources because they're readily available, at least currently, and they're much less expensive than geothermal power. The downside to these energy sources is that they are non-renewable. Once they run out, they are no longer viable sources of energy.

Unfortunately, the cost of building and operating a geothermal power plant is cost prohibitive compared to the cost it takes to build plants utilizing coal, oil, and gas.

How Do Geothermal Plants Work?

There are three different types of geothermal plants: dry steam, binary-cycle, and flash steam. Each one processes the heat from the Earth a bit differently, but the result is the same - power for heating and electricity.

Building a geothermal plant includes drilling two wells: a production well and an injection well. The production well is connected to a previously scouted out geothermal reservoir. The fluids flow from the production well into the power plant to generate power. The injection well then returns geothermal fluids already used back to the production well so they can be recycled into new energy.

Inside the power plant is a large turbine. The turbine blades are turned by steam generated when the hot fluid from inside the earth expands. The turbine in turn sends energy to the electric generator. Between the turbine and the generator, geothermal energy from the earth is transformed into electrical power.

How does the electricity get to power lines? A transformer located outside the power plant is connected to the generator. The electrical current is sent from the generator inside the plant to the transformer outside the plant. The current is then sent over power lines to businesses and residences, providing electricity.

Where Is Geothermal Energy Located?

Geothermal energy can be used anywhere in the world, but there are certain geographical locations that have more potentially available geothermal energy than others. The Ring of Fire, a geographical area along the Pacific Ocean has abundant geothermal energy available.

The countries along the Ring of Fire include Columbia, Indonesia, Mexico, Chile, Russia, Peru, the Philippines, the U.S., Japan, Canada, China, and Australia. Africa also seems to be a great resource for geothermal energy, especially in Ethiopia and Kenya.

Some of these countries have geothermal power plants already in place and producing power, but there are still several others who have the potential energy available, but no power plant built yet.

Geothermal Power Plants Worldwide

  • Africa has a total of 5 plants - 5 in Kenya and one in Zambia

  • Germany - 5

  • Iceland - 5

  • Europe has 6 plants - 4 in Italy and 2 in Portugal

  • Philippines - 3

  • Japan - one

  • Papua New Guinea - one

  • Thailand - one

  • Russia - one

  • France - 70 geothermal facilities

  • New Zealand has 7 plants - 6 in Auckland and one in Bay of Plenty

  • Guatemala - one

  • Costa Rica - 4

  • El Salvador - 2

  • Mexico - 2

  • Guadeloupe - one

  • United States - the leader in geothermal power in energy produced. Plants include 16 in Nevada, 34 in California, one in Idaho, one in Hawaii, and one in Utah.

Geothermal energy is a vastly untapped renewable energy source for our world. It could potentially provide electricity and heat for the world over with energy left over! Continued advances in this area of renewable energy resources are encouraging. Who knows, perhaps there will be a time when geothermal energy is the primary source of energy as opposed to fossil fuels such as gas, oil, and coal!

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