Category Archives: Geothermal

Geothermal Energy in Iceland

Geothermal energy in Iceland is the proof alternative energy is already here and can be a quite lucrative field to get into. What is more, the vast fields in the Icelandic regions show that with clever planning, this kind of energy can easily and consistently supply the needed energy on a continuous basis, simply by working with the locale’s placement on the globe.

Looking to the generation and use of geothermal energy in Iceland as an example for the endless possibilities not nearly sufficiently exploited in the United States, it does bear mentioning there are already 43 such fields in the US. Granted, in comparison with the geothermal energy in Iceland, America does not come close in productivity and functionality.

On the other hand, it is noteworthy even the gradual exploration of this energy vehicle is a step in the right direction. There is little doubt that the energy use is going to be expanded on in the near future. Already there is talk of green collar jobs may be needed to harness this power source. Since it is only sparingly used at this point, this might actually be the birth of an entirely new industry.

Geothermal Power Plants

There are three main power plant technologies used today in geothermal power plants. These technologies are used to convert hydrothermal fluids to electricity. Each type depends on the state of the fluid and its temperature.

Dry steam power plants were the first geothermal power plants of their kind. They traditionally use steam to produce electricity. This is done by taking steam from the geothermal reservoir and routing it through turbine units. The most common types of these plants are flash steam plants where water is pumped at high pressures at the surface.

Binary cycle geothermal power generation plants are different from dry steam plants and flash steam plants. Throughout a binary cycle geothermal power operation the water or steam never touches the turbine units. Most contain moderate-temperate water. The fluid and a secondary “binary” fluid with a lower boiling temperature pass through a heat exchanger.

Throughout the process the heat from the first fluid causes the binary fluid to flash to vapor, and the turbines are then driven. This system is ideal because it’s a closed-loop operation. This means nothing is emitted into the air, which makes it greener than other options overall. In addition, the lower temperature water is more common as a geothermal resource.

The benefits associated with geothermal power plants are abundant. In the world’s mission to become more environmentally efficient and “greener”, these power plants are becoming more and more popular.

Geothermal Energy And Where It Is Used

Geothermal energy is energy generated from the heat stored in the earth. This energy resource is a renewable resource, which is a natural resource naturally replenished such as sunlight, rain or wind.

Geothermal energy is most commonly used through Binary Cycle power plants. Pumps are used to pump hot water from a geothermal well in the earth to a heat exchanger, which cools the water and returns it to a reservoir.

Being geothermal power is naturally occurring, it produces essentially no GHG (Green House Gases) emissions. This energy resource is available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week unlike wind, water and solar resources. This is a resource for energy available indefinitely, unlike the use of fossil fuels such as oil and coal.

Geothermal energy is used around the globe throughout several countries, but it is widely used in the Philippines (the largest consumer of geothermal energy) and Iceland. Eighty-seven percent of the homes in Iceland are heated with geothermal energy provided by power plants such as Nesjavellir. Geothermal plants are also within the United States.

Three examples include Mammoth Lakes, CA, Steamboat Springs, NA, Hilo, HA. The Geysers, which is a geothermal field in California has been in use since 1960. The West Ford Flat Power Plant is one of 21 plants which provide geothermal electricity to Sonoma, Lake, Mendocino, Marin and Napa counties.

Though this energy resource is available other resources are in running consideration for more popular and wide spread use in the future. Through further exploration and use of this natural resource we may one day use such an energy source to power our homes and communities in a healthy and efficient manner through the use of geothermal energy.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is a research facility that is part of the United States Department Of Energy (DOE). The Research and Development expertise are with Renewable Electricity, Renewable Fuels, Integrated Energy Systems and Strategic Energy Analysis. These technologies are distributed by the Technology Transfer Office of the NREL whose main function is to introduce renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies to the public and the marketplace. These technologies can then be transferred into commercial products and businesses.

Some of the main technologies that are being researched are wind, solar, geothermal, hydro (water), biomass and even hydrogen fuel cells. Renewable energy is energy which can renew itself indefinitely, unlike fossil fuels which are non-renewable sources of energy.  These fossil fuels, such as oil, will eventually be gone. The NREL works to find alternative sources of energy which can be used for many practical applications.

Renewable energy is a concept becoming more popular with the energy crisis. More people are leaning towards these forms of energy. This energy is cleaner and greener. A problem is the initial cost for all these forms of energy is higher than the conventional fossil fuels. Some forms of renewable energy are dependent upon location. Wind energy would require some place with enough wind to sustain a wind farm.

Geothermal energy cannot be used in just any location. Solar power can be found in abundance, but the efficiency of converting sunlight into energy is still very low. With renewable energy we can continue to power our homes, drive our cars and continue life as we know it. In time these renewable energies will help save our planet.

Geothermal and Hydro Electric Energy

No discussion of renewable energy would be complete without paying some attention to the bystanders sometimes left out of the discussions: geothermal and hydro electric energy.

Although they are not considered to be of serious impact at this stage, they do present energy options for localized communities who might wish to subsidize their power grid with another source of readily available energy that lessens their dependence on the main form of energy.

The feasibility of geothermal energy has been explored since the early 1900s. By and large it relies on the utilization of heat that is found beneath the earth for all energy needs aboveground. At this point in time the application for geothermal heat is primarily for localized use and not for large scale energy production.

Environmentalists believe that the release of steam byproducts does have a lasting impact on the environment – although not nearly as dire as the current emissions caused by the generation and use of fossil fuels.

Hydro electric energy, on the other hand, is found to be by far more useful when it comes to renewable energy. After all, there is plenty of water found on the earth and there is little chance of running out of this fuel any time soon.

Currently it is this form of renewable energy that makes up the lion’s share of all the renewable energy current used around the world. Geothermal and hydro electric energy are valid contenders in the search for a new primary energy source, but at this point it looks as though solar power is beating both of them.

Big Ideas for a Small Planet Video – Power

This episode explores the booming field of alternative energy as it introduces several individuals who are working to develop clean, renewable energy from resources like the sun... 25 Minute Video - A Very Good Overview of solar, wind and geothermal power options.

What about using Geothermal Energy?

Geothermal energy is used for electrical power production in 21 countries, and supplies significant amounts of electricity to countries such as the Philippines, where 27 percent of electricity derives from geothermal sources.

Geothermal energy is a mainstay of the Icelandic economy, and is also heavily exploited in the United States, with 43 geothermal plants. Geothermal energy is used for electric power generation and direct utilization in the United States.

Even so, this worldwide use represents only a fraction of the potential power that could be generated from geothermal resources. Geothermal energy is generally a highly localized resource, and the processes used to extract energy move at a much higher rate than the processes that restore energy into the geothermal environment.

Geothermal energy is put to work in many places around the world. The best known geothermal energy sources in the United States are located in western states and Hawaii. Geothermal energy is non-renewable. It is non-renewable because it takes millions of years for the earth's heat to accumulate.

Geothermal energy is contained in underground reservoirs of steam, hot water, and hot dry rocks. As used at electric generating facilities, hot water or steam extracted from geothermal reservoirs in the Earth's crust is supplied to steam turbines at electric utilities that drive generators to produce electricity.

While the overall costs of accessing geothermal power are higher than many fossil fuels, the costs continue to decline as the technology improves. Geothermal energy is considered to be
a clean, reliable source of energy.