What Is Geothermal Energy Where Is Geothermal Energy Found

What Is Geothermal Energy? – Where Is Geothermal Energy Found?

By: - Environmental - November 29, 2011
what is geothermal energy where is geothermal energy found

If you are wondering what is geothermal energy, all you have to do is look at the word itself. When you look at the word “geothermal”, you will see that it is actually made of two words, “geo” and “thermal”.  “Geo” is the Greek word, as well as prefix, that means “earth” and “therme” or “thermal” is the Greek word meaning “heat”. When you put them together, you get “earth heat” or in other words, “heat that comes from the earth”, which is exactly the answer to the question “what is geothermal energy?” Geothermal energy is the type of energy produced from the earth’s heat that it has naturally.

Now that you know the answer to “what is geothermal energy”, you may wonder exactly where geothermal energy comes from. About 20% of the geothermal energy on the earth is from the heat of the original creation of the earth that is still around and most of the rest comes from the energy given off by the radioactive decay of minerals. The difference in temperature between the core of the earth and the surface, known as the geothermal gradient, is huge and that heat is pulled away from the core, through the layers of earth to the surface, mostly in the form of hot springs or hot air pockets that dot the surface of the earth.

If you are wondering where is geothermal energy found, the answer is really anywhere if you dig deep enough, but there are only certain areas where the energy is available at the surface. It can be found both on land and in the ocean.  The geothermal energy found on earth is usually split between low temperature, or those sources less than 302 degrees F (150 degrees C) or high temperature, which is over 302 degrees F (150 degrees C).  The most sought after sources for commercial use, like electric plants, are the high temperature sources. If you want to know exactly where is geothermal energy found in the US, it is mostly in the western states of California, Alaska and Hawaii. Nevada, Idaho, Oregon, Utah and Arizona also are tapping into sources for geothermal energy.  If you are wondering worldwide where is geothermal energy found, it is commonly found and used in Japan, Canada, New Zealand, Russia, China and Africa. In fact, over 20 countries use geothermal energy as a source of power.

There are three main ways that geothermal energy is used to make electricity. The first is with dry steam. The power plants that utilize dry steam from the earth were the first type of geothermal energy plants. The plants use the steam from a geothermal reservoir that comes from special wells. The power plant directs the steam through a series of pipes and it goes right through a turbine which produces electricity through geothermal energy.

The second main way that geothermal energy is used to make electricity is called flash steam. Flash steam plants, in general, are the most widespread geothermal energy based electricity plants today. These plants use the high temperature geothermal energy sources and ideally want the water to be higher than 360 degreed F (182 degrees C). This extremely hot water is pushed through a series of pipes that are highly pressurized which is why it doesn’t turn to steam. When the pressurized water reaches the generators in the plant, the pressure is released and the water instantly flashes from water to steam, which is used to power the turbines. The steam eventually turns back into water as it cools and the water is pumped directly back into the reservoir it came from, essentially recycling it.

The third and final way that geothermal energy is made into electricity is with a binary cycle plant. This is a different type of plant because the water or steam will never actually come in contact with the turbines and generators unlike those listed above. In the binary cycle plant, the water from the geothermal energy reservoir is used to treat another fluid and turn that into steam. Many types of fluids are used, they just need to have a boiling point that is lower than water. The big advantage of the binary cycle plant is that it produces zero air emissions.