Geothermal Energy and Its Uses in Power Plants
Geothermal energy is a renewable energy that comes from deep inside the core of the Earth. The energy originated from the heat generated during planet formation. Generally, thermal energy is stored in fluids and rocks in the Earth’s core.
The difference in temperature of the outer surface and the Earth’s core drives constant conduction of energies such as thermal energy from the center part of the planet to the exterior surface of the planet.
Due to the high temperature of approximately 4000°C, the rocks start melting in the center part of the Earth, forming molten rocks known as magma.
The high heat also causes the mantle to behave plastically and rise due to its lighter weight than the surrounding rocks. The water and rock present in the Earth’s crust can reach temperatures up to 370°C.
Thermal energy present in the fluids and rocks can easily be found from a little depth to several miles inside the Earth.
How Is Geothermal Energy Used?
Geothermal energy has been used in several countries for a long time for cooling and heating using different geothermal systems. Also, the underground reservoirs of geothermally heated water and steam can be taken in to generate electricity and cooling industrial applications such as gold mining and milk pasteurizing
One instance of cooling and heating systems is the geothermal heat pump installed approximately 10 feet deep inside the surface of the Earth. The geothermal heating pipes are filled with antifreeze solutions and water for cooling the outer surface of buildings.
This ground system of heat pump helps cool a big building in extreme summer seasons and maintain warmth in extreme winters. The inner Earth’s surface remains at a relatively constant temperature throughout the year, warmer than the air above it during the winter and cooler in the summer. The heat pump takes advantage of this by transferring heat stored in the Earth or groundwater into a building during the winter and transferring it out of the building and back into the ground during the summer.
Geothermal water is also used for helping plants grow inside a greenhouse. Moreover, the water can be passed through pipes inside the roads to melt the extra snow during harsh winters.
As per the BIS Research market report, the global enhanced geothermal system (EGS) market is expected to reach $3,673.1 million by 2030 from $1,841.4 million in 2020, at a CAGR of 7.1% during the forecast period 2022–2030.
How Is Geothermal Energy Used in Power Plants?
The power plants of geothermal energy are available in different designs. They are divided into flash steam, binary steam, and dry steam.
- Flash geothermal power plants are responsible for pulling the high-pressure, extremely hot waters from deep inside the Earth’s surface and then mixing it with cool waters present on the Earth’s outer surface. This process, in turn, helps create steam which is used to cause movements in the turbine.
- Binary plants generally use the water of boiling temperature for passing via secondary fluid having a lower boiling point than water. This secondary fluid changes into vapors which help in moving the turbine.
- Dry steam is one of the oldest types of geothermal power plants that directly takes the steam from the fractures present in the ground for causing movements in the turbine.
The largest producer of geothermal energy in the world is the U.S. Also, they have got the most extensive geothermal power plant system globally.
Benefits of Geothermal Energy
- Environment Friendly
Geothermal energy is termed as highly environment friendly. The geothermal power plant emits less carbon dioxide for each megawatt-hour (MWh) electricity generated.
In addition, the presence of polluting elements of geothermal energy is few in comparison to conventional fuels such as natural gas and coal.
The enhancement of geothermal resources is beneficial for fighting against the rising problem of global warming.
- Sustainable and Renewable:
Geothermal energy comes directly from natural resources and also gets naturally replenished.
Geothermal energy has the potential of sustaining its consumption rate on its own, unlike other conventional sources of energy such as fossil fuels and coal. According to scientists, geothermal reservoirs can last for several forthcoming years.
Geothermal energy is said to be one of the most reliable energy sources. One cannot predict the output power of the geothermal plants with accuracy.
However, the case is not similar with wind and solar because weather plays the primary role in producing power. Therefore, geothermal plants are considered best for meeting the energy demand.
Enhanced Geothermal System Market Overview
The commercial industry is the highest end user of the enhanced geothermal system for generating electricity. In 2020, the demand by the commercial industry for electricity was 941.2 terawatt-hours via an enhanced geothermal system (EGS) system.
The demand of the commercial sector for electricity is higher from end users such as government, supermarkets, healthcare, transportation, banks, convenience stores, and department stores, among others. The largest market for EGS globally is North America.
Geothermal energy is mostly considered reliable, sustainable, and environmentally friendly, making it preferred energy to be used at many places. However, due to the enormous costs of geothermal energy systems, people do not use this energy.
The influence of geothermal power on the energy system in the coming future entirely depends on technology developments, politics (subsidies), and energy prices. However, no one can accurately predict the renewable energy situation in the coming decades.
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