CHAPTER 1. WHAT IS GEOTHERMAL ENERGY
Geothermal energy is thermal energy generated and stored in the Earth. Thermal energy is the energy that determines the temperature of matter. The Geothermal energy of the Earth's crust originates from the original formation of the planet (20%) and from radioactive decay of minerals (80%). The geothermal gradient, which is the difference in temperature between the core of the planet and its surface, drives a continuous conduction of thermal energy in the form of heat from the core to the surface. The adjective geothermal originates from the Greek roots γη (ge), meaning earth, and θερμος (thermos), meaning hot. At the core of the Earth, thermal energy is created by radioactive decay and temperatures may reach over 5000 degrees Celsius (9,000 degrees Fahrenheit). Heat conducts from the core to surrounding cooler rock. The high temperature and pressure cause some rock to melt, creating magma convection upward since it is lighter than the solid rock. The magma heats rock and water in the crust, sometimes up to 370 degrees Celsius (700 degrees Fahrenheit).

From hotsprings, geothermal energy has been used for bathing since Paleolithic times and for space heating since ancient Roman times, but it is now better known for electricity generation. Worldwide, about 10,715 megawatts (MW) of geothermal power is online in 24 countries. An additional 28 gigawatts of direct geothermal heating capacity is installed for district heating, space heating, spas, industrial processes, desalination and agricultural applications. Geothermal power is cost effective, reliable, sustainable, and environmentally friendly, but has historically been limited to areas near tectonic plate boundaries. Recent technological advances have dramatically expanded the range and size of viable resources, especially for applications such as home heating, opening a potential for widespread exploitation. Geothermal wells release greenhouse gases trapped deep within the earth, but these emissions are much lower per energy unit than those of fossil fuels. As a result, geothermal power has the potential to help mitigate global warming if widely deployed in place of fossil fuels. The Earth's geothermal resources are theoretically more than adequate to supply humanity's energy needs, but only a very small fraction may be profitably exploited. Drilling and exploration for deep resources is very expensive. Forecasts for the future of geothermal power depend on assumptions about technology, energy prices, subsidies, and interest rates. Polls show that customers would be willing to pay a little more for a renewable energy source like geothermal. But as a result of government assisted research and industry experience, the cost of generating geothermal power has decreased by 25% over the past two decades. In 2001, geothermal energy cost between two and ten cents per kwh.

pacific gas and electric began operation of first large scale geothermal power plant in San Francisco. In 1973. producing 11 megawatts.000 years ago in North America by American Paleo-Indians. when oil crisis began many countries began looking for renewable energy sources and by 1980's geothermal heat pumps (GHP) started gaining popularity in order to reduce heating and cooling costs. With the above experiment. Italy in late 18th century. Today there are more than 60 geothermal power plants operating in USA at 18 sites across the country. During the 1960's. It produced little output and due to technical glitch had to be shut down. in 1946 first ground-source geothermal heat pump installed at Commonwealth Building in Portland. HISTORY OF GEOTHERMAL ENERGY History says that the first use of geothermal energy occurred more than 10. Italian scientist Piero Ginori Conti invented the first geothermal electric power plant in which steam was used to generate the power. Steam coming from natural vents (and from drilled holes) was used to extract boric acid from the hot pools that are now known as the Larderello fields. Oregon. bathing and cleaning. The first industrial use of geothermal energy began near Pisa. the first geothermal plant in USA started in 1922 with a capacity of 250 kilowatts. However. People used water from hot springs for cooking. In 1904. .CHAPTER 2.

Italy . Geothermal power plants today are operating in about 20 countries which are actively visited by earthquakes and volcanoes. Lardarello. 1904. A geothermal power plant at The Geysers. governments of various countries joined hands to fight against it. 184 countries have ratified it. laid out emission targets for rich countries and required that they transfer funds and technology to developing countries. First geothermal power plant. for which Kyoto Protocol was signed in Japan in 1997.As effect of climate change started showing results. Geothermal power today supplies less than 1% of the world's energy in 2009 needs but it is expected to supply 10-20% of world's energy requirement by 2050.

Geologists use different methods to find geothermal reservoirs. FINDING GEOTHERMAL ENERGY What are the characteristics of geothermal resources? Some visible features of geothermal energy are volcanoes.CHAPTER 3. Most of the geothermal activity in the world occurs in an area called the Ring of Fire. But you cannot see most geothermal resources. There may be no clues above ground that a geothermal reservoir is present below. The most active geothermal resources are usually found along major plate boundaries where earthquakes and volcanoes are concentrated. geysers. hot springs. and fumaroles. The only way to be sure there is a reservoir is to drill a well and test the temperature deep underground. . They are deep underground. This area borders the Pacific Ocean.

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There are three types of geothermal power plants: dry steam. flash steam. GEOTHERMAL ELECTRICITY PRODUCTION Most power plants need steam to generate electricity. the only dry steam plants in the country are at The Geysers. The steam is piped directly from underground wells to the power plant. and binary cycle. The steam rotates a turbine that activates a generator. Dry steam power plants draw from underground resources of steam. which produces electricity. . Geothermal power plants. where it is directed into a turbine/generator unit. use steam produced from reservoirs of hot water found a couple of miles or more below the Earth's surface. Since Yellowstone is protected from development.CHAPTER 4. Many power plants still use fossil fuels to boil water for steam. however. where there's a well-known geyser called Old Faithful. There are only two known underground resources of steam in the United States: The Geysers in northern California and Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.

Any leftover water and condensed steam are injected back into the reservoir. The working fluid is vaporized in a heat exchanger and used to turn a turbine. possibly even as distributed energy resources. Binary cycle power plants operate on water at lower temperatures of about 225°-360°F (107°182°C). This very hot water flows up through wells in the ground under its own pressure. Flash steam power plants are the most common. The water is then injected back into the ground to be reheated. usually an organic compound with a low boiling point.This geothermal power plant generates electricity for the Imperial Valley in California. They use geothermal reservoirs of water with temperatures greater than 360°F (182°C). making this a sustainable resource. so there are little or no air emissions. As it flows upward. modular power-generating technologies that can be combined to improve the operation of the electricity delivery system. In the United States. These plants use the heat from the hot water to boil a working fluid. . The steam is then separated from the water and used to power a turbine/generator. Distributed energy resources refer to a variety of small. Small-scale geothermal power plants (under 5 megawatts) have the potential for widespread application in rural areas. The water and the working fluid are kept separated during the whole process. the pressure decreases and some of the hot water boils into steam. Alaska and Hawaii. most geothermal reservoirs are located in the western states.

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mineral recovery.CHAPTER 5. and another third for heated pools. low temperature means temperatures of 300 °F (149 °C) or less. with a global annual growth rate of 30% in energy production. The remainder supported industrial and agricultural applications. fisheries. Approximately 70 countries made direct use of 270 petajoules (PJ) of geothermal heating in 2004. but capacity factors tend to be low (30% on average) since heat is mostly needed in winter.3 million geothermal heat pumps with a total capacity of 15 GW. . and industrial process heating. The above figures are dominated by 88 PJ of space heating extracted by an estimated 1. Low-temperature geothermal resources are typically used in direct-use applications. Global installed capacity was 28 GW. Heat pumps for home heating are the fastest-growing means of exploiting geothermal energy. greenhouses. More than half went for space heating. such as district heating. some low-temperature resources can generate electricity using binary cycle electricity generating technology. However. DIRECT APPLICATION In the geothermal industry.

geothermal heating is economic at many more sites than geothermal electricity generation. If the ground is hot but dry. solar energy collection and electric heating. including air conditioning. Iceland being the world leader. seasonal energy storage. and they frequently combine a variety of functions. Geothermal heat pumps can be used for space heating essentially anywhere. earth tubes or downhole heat exchangers can collect the heat. These devices draw on much shallower and colder resources than traditional geothermal techniques. Iceland has the biggest district heating system on the globe.Direct heating is far more efficient than electricity generation and places less demanding temperature requirements on the heat resource. saving Iceland over $100 million annually in avoided oil imports. Heat may come from co-generation via a geothermal electrical plant or from smaller wells or heat exchangers buried in shallow ground. Once known as the most polluted city in the world. 93% of its homes are heated with geothermal energy. District heating applications use networks of piped hot water to heat many buildings across entire communities. Geothermal heat supports many applications.Reykjavik. the heated water can be piped directly into radiators. More than 72 countries have reported direct use of geothermal energy. it is now one of the cleanest due to geothermal energy. Where natural hot springs or geysers are available. . As a result. heat can still be extracted with a geothermal heat pump more cost-effectively and cleanly than by conventional furnaces. But even in areas where the ground is colder than room temperature.

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the use of geothermal energy is not limited to generating electricity. However. Oregon. specifically California.CHAPTER 6. which means it is a lot less expensive to install. On a small scale. Nebraska. so in the winter it is a reliable heat source for water and general heating. There are now mini geothermal heat pumps. ECONOMICS Some of the best places to build a geothermal energy plant is in the Western United States. New Mexico. cool and provide hot water for a single structure. into the ground the temperature is a stable 55 degrees year round. As little as 200 ft. the well into the ground does not have to be very deep. Arizona. Utah. Idaho. . which can be installed for a single building and are designed to heat. and it can cut heating costs 30-70% and cooling costs 20-50% a year. Nevada. and Washington.

which surrounds geothermal reservoirs. Because the exploration and drilling costs are so steep. With the plants that we have now in the United States. "EGS [Enhanced Geothermal systems] could provide 100 GWe or more of costcompetitive generating capacity in the next 50 years. Jefferson Tester. Professor of Sustainable Energy Systems in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Cornell University estimates the figure for the whole world [of usable geothermal energy] is on the order of over 27 trillion GWh .Drilling sites for commercial sized plants are not cheap. scientists are looking to expand already made wells instead of creating new ones and some are even experimenting with turning oil wells into geothermal heat sources. This would not only decrease the need for costly drill bits but would prevent the risk of the drill bit breaking inside the well. We now use worldwide just over one 111 million GWh's per year . . One company named "Potter Drilling" uses hot water heated to 1. Fortunately most of the costs are up front and compared to oil. which has low up front costs but more maintenance costs. the costs over time for geothermal energy are minimal.472 degrees Fahrenheit that can blast through the hard rock. we have the capacity to produce 2 GWh of electricity and experts say we can develop commercial size production plants within the next 10-15 years. All in all it costs between $5-10 million dollars or $100-200/ kWh to build an industrial geothermal plant.

It is estimated that for every $1 spent on geothermal energy $2. students and businesses interested in studying geothermal energy.949 direct. and mostly minority populated areas.Not only is this a viable energy resource. Geothermal plants also bring in a modest income as a tourist attraction from entrepreneurs. They are not only stable.50 is created and kept in the local community. long term jobs but they pay higher wages and create more jobs per KW than natural gas production. indirect and induced jobs within the next thirty years. Geothermal energy plants create long-term stable employment to mostly low-income. rural communities. either through taxes. quality. . company contributions or worker's wages. alone are estimated to provide 23. Geothermal plants in the U.S. but geothermal power plants can bring substantial revenue to rural.

. As the market for alternative energies increases. so will the demand for this kind of clean. However with regular maintenance and repair. geothermal among them. Geothermal is quickly becoming a more attractive alternative. With the Government giving oil subsidies to the tune of $18 billion dollars a year and Obama's goal to be independent of foreign fossil fuels. which currently provides our most continuous energy supply.S. renewable energy and its attractiveness as a large and small-scale energy source will make it appealing to both businesses and individuals alike. it is a viable alternative to coal and nuclear energy.Because geothermal is a stable energy source and can operate 365 days a year. by the U. renewable energy sources but are not consistent and their energy must be stored when there is no sun or wind. However. geothermal reservoirs do not produce their premium energy supply forever. Solar and wind power are good. geothermal presents an attractive alternative for fuel subsidies. The life of most geothermal plants is about 30 years. many plants produce less steam. Department of Energy (DOE) which can help offset the upfront cost of a geothermal plant. and could be one of the lights at the end of the energy crisis tunnel. operate at lower temperatures and overall become less efficient with time. Over the years. Already there are grants available for renewable energy sources. they can last many times that.

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2 terawatts (TW). but most of this energy flow is not recoverable.CHAPTER 7. Outside of the seasonal variations. and is replenished by radioactive decay of minerals at a rate of 30 TW. RESOURCES The Earth's internal thermal energy flows to the surface by conduction at a rate of 44.1 MW/km2. These power rates are more than double humanity’s current energy consumption from all primary sources. and releases that energy and cools during the winter. These values are much higher near tectonic plate boundaries where the crust is thinner. . The conductive heat flux averages 0. either through magma conduits. They may be further augmented by fluid circulation. hot springs. the top layer of the surface to a depth of 10 meters (33 ft) is heated by solar energy during the summer. In addition to the internal heat flows. the geothermal gradient of temperatures through the crust is 25–30 °C (45–54 °F) per kilometer of depth in most of the world. hydrothermal circulation or a combination of these.

The more demanding applications receive the greatest benefit from a high natural heat flux. This last approach is called hot dry rock geothermal energy in Europe. ideally from using a hot spring. If no adequate aquifer is available. . an artificial one may be built by injecting water to hydraulically fracture the bedrock.A geothermal heat pump can extract enough heat from shallow ground anywhere in the world to provide home heating. or enhanced geothermal systems in North America. The thermal efficiency and profitability of electricity generation is particularly sensitive to temperature. but industrial applications need the higher temperatures of deep resources. The next best option is to drill a well into a hot aquifer.

By using geothermal sources of energy present generations of humans will not endanger the capability of future generations to use their own resources to the same amount that those energy sources are presently used. Natural heat flows are not in equilibrium. About 20% of this is residual heat from planetary accretion. Geothermal power is also considered to be sustainable thanks to its power to sustain the Earth’s intricate ecosystems. Human extraction taps a minute fraction of the natural outflow. and the planet is slowly cooling down on geologic timescales. and the remainder is attributed to higher radioactive decay rates that existed in the past. The Earth has an internal heat content of 1031 joules(3•1015 TW•hr).CHAPTER 8. due to its low emissions geothermal energy is considered to have excellent potential for mitigation of global warming. . often without accelerating it. RENEWABILITY AND SUSTAINABILITY Geothermal power is considered to be renewable because any projected heat extraction is small compared to the Earth's heat content. Further.

in uncertain proportions. . with its first unit commissioned in November 1958. Wairakei. and at The Geysers field in California since 1960. Falling electricity production may be boosted through drilling additional supply boreholes. extraction must still be monitored to avoid local depletion. being lost due to reorganisations. and the Geysers have experienced reduced output because of local depletion. these wells could theoretically recover their full potential. and it attained its peak generation of 173MW in 1965. boosting the station's output by about 14MW. and the gap in 1996/7 for Wairakei and Ohaaki. half-hourly data for Ohaaki's first few months of operation are also missing. were extracted faster than they were replenished. as at Poihipi and Ohaaki. Around the start of the 20th century it was managing about 150MW.Even though geothermal power is globally sustainable. but already the supply of high-pressure steam was faltering. The Wairakei power station has been running much longer. individual wells draw down local temperatures and water levels until a new equilibrium is reached with natural flows. If production is reduced and water is reinjected. then in 2005 two 8MW isopentane systems were added. One such re-organisation in 1996 causes the absence of early data for Poihipi (started 1996). in 1982 being derated to intermediate pressure and the station managing 157MW. The long-term sustainability of geothermal energy has been demonstrated at the Lardarello field in Italy since 1913. Over the course of decades. as well as for most of Wairakei's history. Heat and water. Detailed data are unavailable. The three oldest sites. at the Wairakei field in New Zealand since 1958. Such mitigation strategies have already been implemented at some sites. at Larderello.

mercury. Greenhouse gases are also emitted. these things contribute to acid rain and global warming. This would significantly lower the amount of pollution generated. Geothermal energy was created by the formation of the Earth and is replenished through the radioactive decay of core minerals and the shifting of tectonic plates. and sulphur. When released into the atmosphere. The energy plants themselves are capable of releasing pollutants. Geothermal energy is already used by approximately 70 countries across the globe and is capable of supplying 75% to 100% of the commercial energy needed. While the geothermal energy is being extracted. things that renewable energy is generally used to lessen. noxious gases and elements are released. The solar rays that constantly strike the earth’s surface also add to the amount of geothermal energy found within the planet. . geothermal energy is not completely pollutant free. ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF GEOTHERMAL ENERGY Geothermal energy is a renewable energy source that can be used to offset the use of fossil fuels as well as the emission ofgreenhouse gases.CHAPTER 9. However despite all these benefits. such as carbon dioxide.

If geothermal energy was used in full in place of fossil fuels. Any program to utilize geothermal energy needs to allow for the capture of these elements. However while there are pollutants involved with geothermal energy. it would have a much smaller impact upon the environment. arsenic. fewer emissions are released than when fossil fuels are used for energy. This is referred to as carbon capture and storage. If this water is released into rivers or other bodies of water it can be extremely dangerous to humans and animals who may consume the contaminated liquid. . Hot water from geothermal sources may contain trace amounts of dangerous elements such as mercury. and antimony. These emissions can be offset by injecting any fluids brought to the surface through geothermal energy back into the earth.There is a case to be made against geothermal energy because of these extraction emissions.

the impact of geothermal energy on the environment is much smaller relative to its benefits. . coal. or if a plant is larger than the geothermal site’s capacity. and excess pollution from the remainder of the plant can also cause problems. it is possible to deplete the area of its geothermal energy. If the site is overused.000 liters per MWh for nuclear. Geothermal activity can cause foundational problems with surrounding land. Geothermal power plants have minimal land and fresh water requirements compared to other energy sources. Current geothermal plants use 1-8 acres per megawatt (MW) versus 5-10 acres per MW for nuclear operations and 19 acres per MW for coal power plants. Geothermal energy has environmental implications to consider. They use 20 liters of fresh water per MWh versus over 1.Another aspect to consider is the influence of the geothermal power plants upon the site. or oil. especially if water is used in correlation with hot dry rock. However when compared tofossil fuels. This has a hard impact upon the environment.

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