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Geothermal Energy Untapped Potential for Climate Control

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Alex Rivera

Chief Editor at EduNow.me

Geothermal Energy Untapped Potential for Climate Control

Geothermal Energy Holds Untapped Promise for Climate Control

Geothermal power offers unrivaled temperature regulation potential; unlike solar or wind power it operates 24/7 regardless of weather conditions.

New federal funding and rebates combined with electrification rebates will significantly lower upfront costs for homeowners and commercial buildings to install and use geothermal heat pumps. There have also been exciting innovations by technology startups using lessons learned from oil-and-gas exploration to optimize drilling and design techniques.

1. Cooling

The Earth’s core maintains an average temperature of approximately 5,800deg F – hot enough to boil water. This constant thermal energy flow can be harnessed with modern technology for creating eco-friendly heating and cooling solutions.

Romans utilized natural thermal springs for bathhouses and cooking purposes. They built tunnels under Pompeii to channel hot water directly to buildings and homes. Modern geothermal plants make even greater use of Earth’s energy; producing both hot and cold water simultaneously so users can customize their needs in the most cost-efficient manner. Furthermore, these systems tend to occupy less space than traditional systems while cutting costs associated with installation.

As nations search for ways to reduce carbon emissions, geothermal has emerged as an effective solution. While not as well-known as wind or solar technologies, geothermal is becoming increasingly attractive thanks to aggressive greenhouse gas reduction goals and efforts to lower costs.

Geothermal energy sources are ideal for college campuses where students and faculty want to reduce emissions while saving money. But geothermal requires drilling boreholes into the surface, creating a climate action plan, and being patient as the return on investment may take up to 20 years to materialize.

Carleton College, for instance, has installed three geothermal systems since 2017 as part of their district energy solution. Their Facilities Director Martha Larson credits their selection as being determined by an in-depth analysis of electricity and natural gas costs as well as operating and maintenance expenses; she expects the system to pay off after thirty years.

Geothermal could make its greatest contribution to decarbonization in the US through what are known as enhanced geothermal systems, which utilize hot rock to generate energy by pumping water down through underground conduits into it and using that heat to turn turbines. Although such systems remain costly and research challenges remain, they could make significant strides as countries adopt renewable portfolio standards that require carbon-free sources for power.

2. Heating

Geothermal energy provides a renewable source of heat for domestic and industrial heating applications without using fuel; geothermal plants also emit significantly less pollution than fossil-fueled power stations, emitting only one-sixth the carbon dioxide released by natural gas power stations.

Geothermal energy systems offer more consistent operation than solar or wind systems, as they can work all year round without interruption. Unfortunately, geothermal systems require drilling and fluid injection in order to extract heat which could have environmental ramifications.

Hydrothermal power stations use a mixture of freshwater and hot steam to generate electricity, creating hazardous hydrothermal systems where these chemicals may leach into underground sources and pollute freshwater supplies. Hydrothermal systems present unique risks as they use freshwater as part of the electricity generation process.

Geothermal energy production occurs primarily through steam power plants, and these facilities produce electricity at significantly reduced costs when compared with coal, oil or nuclear sources. Furthermore, steam plants tend to have lower visual impacts than conventional power plants while using far less land than their counterparts do.

Geothermal energy may have some environmental repercussions due to drilling and injecting water, but its environmental impacts are significantly less significant than solar or wind power which rely solely on sunlight or winds for their operation. Furthermore, geothermal has lower carbon footprint than fossil-fuel energy sources as a sustainable solution that can help mitigate climate change.

Geothermal power plants not only generate electricity but can also supply heating and hot water to homes and businesses. Some countries, like Iceland, heavily rely on geothermal heating; approximately 90% of houses there use this method of heat production. Furthermore, the country’s natural geysers and steam vents supply heat for swimming pools, greenhouses, and prawn farms alike.

3. Hot Water

Geothermal energy has long been used as an electricity generation source, but its applications go well beyond electricity generation to include heating and cooling as well. Geothermal can help us meet our clean energy goals by offering reliable, carbon-free power for winter heating and summer cooling – providing reliable power 24/7 without increasing costs or carbon emissions. Geothermal can also help make grid more stable as well as provide back up when solar or wind fail, providing reliable heat when they fail too.

Presently, producing geothermal electricity costs approximately 10 cents a kilowatt-hour in the United States. Prices could fluctuate based on geologic conditions and drilling costs, and should decline with improvements to technology. This compares with about 6 cents for electricity produced through burning coal; but governments are expected to close this price gap as they introduce cap-and-trade schemes to tax carbon emissions, and engineers develop technologies which lower energy recovery costs.

Direct air capture (DAC) is one of the most promising strategies for mitigating climate change emissions. DAC relies on massive amounts of energy and heat, such as solar or geothermal, to capture CO2 out of the air and transport it underground where it can remain secure for thousands of years. Traditional solar and wind cannot provide this source of power – enhanced geothermal can.

Enhance geothermal energy can have high upfront costs due to its need for deep and permanent wells, but thanks to lessons learned during the fossil fuel boom, drilling technology for enhanced geothermal is becoming more efficient and cost-effective – soon, wells that would have cost $500 a foot could be made available far cheaper through innovations like fracking or vertical drilling, thus expanding geothermal use while possibly providing carbon dioxide removal markets that can help save the planet from climate chaos.

Geothermal’s potential is immense, yet its implementation requires careful policy decisions in order to realize all its advantages. Energy companies must adapt new technologies in order to avoid extinction; geothermal has the ability to become one such technology and play an essential part in reaching our clean energy goals.

4. Electricity

Geothermal energy provides a clean and sustainable solution for electricity production. Geothermal power plants harvest heat from below the Earth’s surface, and convert it into usable electricity using binary cycle or flash steam power plants. Geothermal plants also last longer and require less land than coal or gas power plants – ideal for cities or rural communities with limited available space.

Geothermal energy can also be utilized to heat and cool buildings, taking advantage of Earth’s inexhaustible source of renewable heat. Heating and cooling systems based on this technology work by circulating fluid such as water-antifreeze mixture through loops underneath a building; during winter this fluid absorbs heat from below ground before transporting it up through loops to heat your room or space; during summer this same fluid transfers excess heat back down again, effectively cooling it down as needed.

District heating and cooling systems, which have become increasingly popular in countries with hotter climates such as Latin America and parts of Asia Pacific, have also gained in popularity in universities and college campuses such as Carleton College, Princeton University and Ball State University. These low-carbon district energy options offer many advantages that should be implemented immediately.

The global energy transition presents an exceptional opportunity to unlock geothermal’s full potential. While fossil fuels and nuclear energy receive billions annually for development, research, commercialization, scalability and expansion, geothermal has yet to receive equal attention from investors and governments.

Thankfully, advances in drilling technologies and materials are helping reduce costs and expand where geothermal energy production can take place. Furthermore, data analytics and artificial intelligence solutions are helping optimize operation and maintenance at existing plants.

Earth energy experts have identified vast amounts of geothermal potential and will require significant public investments to reach it and enable a comprehensive transformation. This may involve supporting technologies like closed-loop and deep super-hot water geothermal energy for electricity production as well as district thermal systems which utilize multiple small geothermal systems combined into district thermal systems to provide both heating and cooling. Finally, permitting reform could accelerate geothermal deployment capacities faster.

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