Imagine a clean, green, pollution-free world, in which cars are powered by steam and 5-course meals are cooked with the energy drawn from molten rock. Today, with extensive geothermal energy research being conducted, these dreams are set to become a reality. Harnessing the potential of alternative power sources like geothermal energy is essential in order to avoid a future energy crisis. Scientists believe that the world’s fossil fuel resources are being depleted so rapidly, that we may soon have to do without the energy-powered comforts that we take for granted.
Geo’ is Greek for Earth and ‘therme’ is Greek for heat. This heat reaches temperatures up to 6000 Degree Celsius at the earth’s core. Water trapped within the earth heats up through convection forming reservoirs of hot water and steam that geothermal plants tap into, in order to generate energy. Greenhouse gas emissions from the power production process are minimal or nil, making geothermal energy a clean, green energy that could not only help save our environment, but also effectively power a large part of our world, in the future. Interestingly, this heat energy has been used since prehistoric times, when man first bathed in hot springs. Today the District Heating Utility in Reykjavik, Iceland, pumps water from hot springs and geothermal wells, to heat homes across the city. In California, the ‘Geysers’ is a vast field of steam, spanning 45 square miles, that produces one-fifth of the green power in the state.
Geothermal energy also lends itself to extensive industrial application. Industries that use heat-driven processes such as milk pasteurization and those that require high levels of heat for production, like paper manufacturers, can benefit from geothermal energy. These industries may soon effectively reduce their carbon footprint by eliminating their need for fossil fuel. Interesting uses of geothermal energy include, heating of prawn farms, heating of greenhouses for horticultural purposes, drying of crops and timber and food dehydration.
Despite some barriers to progress such as high plant installation costs and lack of skilled labor, the geothermal industry is powering ahead to ‘unearth’ new ways of utilizing the earth’s vast heat energy. Finding the best locations to set up plants and overcoming challenges related to energy transportation will not be easy. Nevertheless, scientists believe that the benefits supersede the disadvantages and that the world’s energy future lies in this extensively available resource. According to SINTEF Group, the largest independent research organization in Scandinavia, 99 percent of the planet has a temperature above 1000 degree celsius. So far we have only just scratched the surface in terms of reaping this incredible power.
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