Benefits of Using Geothermal Energy and How it Works

by on September 14th, 2010
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One of the main benefits of geothermal energy, (energy obtained from the heat inside the earth), is that as well as being a renewable resource it can also help to combat the effects of global warming by moving us away from our dependence on fossil fuels.

As described in Discovery News, benefits of geothermal energy have been known as long as we have known about the heat produced by the earth’s core. It includes hot springs, geysers, and steam inside the earth’s crust, and can be used to run power stations as well as to heat homes and workplaces. It is a renewable resource because water levels are recovered by rainfall so that heat is then reproduced inside the earth.

While the benefits of geothermal energy are most apparent where it breaks through the earth’s surface, it is actually produced some four thousand miles below that. The high temperature at the earth’s core is the result of a radioactive process in the rocky crust of the earth. Geothermal energy is now being used by countries around the world to heat homes and workplaces as well as to generate electricity.

So how are the benefits of geothermal energy obtained?

Three miles below the earths surface the temperature reaches up to 100 degrees Celsius, which is the boiling point of water. These high temperatures could be used to run a steam-driven power plant and generate electricity if drilling three miles below through the earth were not such a difficult task. Instead, scientists identify geothermal hotspots where heat is transmitted from the inside of the earth to the outer crust because of the thinness of the earth’s mantle there. The benefits of geothermal energy are primarily obtained from generating electricity at these hotspots.

The two main ways of generating electricity from geothermal energy is by pumping water into hotspots and using the steam that results to drive the turbines at the power station or alternatively to use volcanic magma. The temperature of partially molten magma is approximately 650 degrees Celsius, easily hot enough to boil water and generate electricity with the steam that it produces.

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