All About Geothermal Energy
When it comes to renewable energy, many people think that the term relates to wind farms and tidal barrages alone. However, one of Canada's most potent sources of renewable energy is actually right under your feet! Geothermal energy involves harnessing the Earth's massive amount of heat energy, and turning it into power that can fuel your homes. If you're guilty of dismissing geothermal energy, read below to find out what it's all about!
Methods Of Extracting Geothermal Energy
Geothermal energy can be divided into two different types based on extraction method.
Geothermal Power For Direct Heat
Geothermal energy for direct heat use comes directly from hot water aquifers – collections of rock strata that contain high temperature water at significant depths. The heat from this water is ideal for use in local heat networks, and the water can even be cooled for further use through absorption chillers. Over time, the water stored in these hot aquifers will replenish, meaning the extraction and supply of this energy source is 100% renewable.
Deep Geothermal Energy
Deep geothermal energy differs from the direct heat source above as it does not make use of pre-existing water for heat energy. Rather, cold water is pumped deep into the rock strata from a borehole and is then heated up as it moves through the igneous rock layer. This hot water is then redirected to the surface through another borehole and can then be used for heat extraction or driving a production turbine.
One of the main advantages of deep geothermal energy lies in its continuous potential. With direct heat, the water must replenish fully before production can begin again; however, deep geothermal energy uses manmade pumps to drive the water into the rock, meaning it can be used continuously. This offers energy producers the unrivalled potential of a solid baseline energy, which can then be "topped up" by direct heat sources.
Advantages Of Geothermal Energy
In addition to its continuous potential, geothermal energy offers a number of advantages when compared to its competitors:
It's Great For The Environment
As with all renewables, geothermal energy does not use fossil fuels to make power. In addition to this, geothermal plants are mostly emission-free, and they do not spoil the landscape like wind farms might.
It's Extremely Reliable
As mentioned above, deep geothermal energy has the potential to generate a constant base load of power. This potential isn't dependent on environmental factors like solar and wind energy is – it is readily available all year round. As such, geothermal energy can be used to give a reliable energy output as part of an energy mix.
It Doesn't Require Regular Maintenance
Some renewable energy sources such as tidal and wave power require regular inspection and maintenance to ensure the equipment is generating electricity at an acceptable efficiency. This is because these sources of energy make us of many moving parts that rotate in response to the external environment. However, geothermal plants have very few moving parts, and these parts are typically offered good protection against extreme weather. As such, plants can generate continuous energy without the need for regular checks and repairs.
As with any energy source, geothermal power has a few drawbacks that may cause concern to production companies:
High Investment And Planning Costs
The main issue with geothermal energy is that it requires a large amount of land from which to draw heat. Not all land is suitable for this purpose, and energy companies may find it difficult to obtain planning permission for some sites.
Significant Amount Of Research Required
From the sites that are suitable for geothermal energy extraction, not all will generate enough electricity to render it sustainable. There is a large amount of research and testing that is required prior to installation to ensure that the geothermal plant will be profitable for years to come. As such, the research and development stage can take a significant amount of time, which can be a turn off to some companies.
Despite these drawbacks, energy companies would be making a very bad decision to dismiss one of Earth's most potent resources. If a good planning strategy is adopted, and companies are willing to invest in the installation of this technology, it can be an extremely lucrative source of energy for many years to come.