Geothermal Energy

When thinking about using natural resources from the earth to conduct energy the first thought that may come to mind is using wind, water, or biomass but the earth’s heat is also a wonderful way to conduct a clean and sustainable form of energy. Which is called geothermal energy. Energy is using the hot water and hot rocks below the earth’s surface and trapping the energy within a pumping station.  Pumping stations can be very large and also very small. They can be used to produce energy for as small as a single family dwelling and as large as a city. This can be completed not only at enormous and complex power stations, but even the most relatively simplest stations have produced the effective and efficient energy source.

Within the earth’s crust there are layers of hot and molten rock, known as magma. Heat is processed within these layers are mostly caused from the decaying of naturally radioactive materials. The  heat produced within 6.25 miles of these layers below the earth’s surface contain 50,000 times more natural energy than all the natural gas and oil resources within the whole world. To use the geothermal energy for heating and cooling a geothermal heat pump has been created.

A geothermal heat pump uses the steady temperatures below ground to heat and cool buildings. The energy can also be “trapped” on a larger scale to produce energy for an entire town. This is extremely clean and relatively inexpensive.

A majority of the geothermal plants located within the United States are in California where there are more than 40 different geothermal plant sites. California is where the highest underground temperatures occur or where active volcanoes are and that is where geothermal energy can be found. Generally many “hot spots” are found within the west coast of the United States that including Alaska, Oregon, Nevada, and California.


Yellowstone GeyserOne of the most well known geothermal spots for visitors to be able to witness first hand is Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. As this is a site all in its own. It is one of the most predictable features on Earth. It was discovered in 1870 during the Washbum Langford-Duane expedition and it is the first geyser within the park to receive a name. As the hot water rises to the surface, natural hot springs and geysers occur. These are well known seismically active hotspots and they are not the only place where the geothermal energy is located.

Steady and milder heat used for direct heating and cooling purposes and can be found at depths of the earth’s surface from as little as 10 feet. Your home or local grocery store could be controlling their climate within these buildings without you even knowing. The clean and sustainable source of energy has a full economic force that has been has more recently realized. State and federal agencies are likely to develop and tap into some of this potential sustainable energy more and more within the coming years.

When researching and understanding how geothermal energy is used and why the resource is becoming the “hot spot” of the future it is important to understand how the energy is found.  The “hot spots” can be discovered by scanning the ground for seismic measurements. The ground is scanned using sound waves to detect a seismic echo. Geological formations can be identified by the reflection or refraction of sound waves at the boundary of the surfaces of different layers of rock. When reviewing the sound waves that are recorded by geophones they are able to determine the size and depth of the geothermal deposits. Vibro-trucks are used to discover deposits on the surface of the earth’s crust. When locating deposits within the earth’s waters special ships are used. These ships have air guns that are used to explore under the water. The seismic procedures are differentiated into 2D seismics or 3D seimics.

vibro truckSeismic Trucks or Virbo-trucks are used in researching the earth’s surface for seismics deposits. Sound waves are produced from vibrators. These trucks are an essential part of the seismic surveying process. The big rigs are nearly 30 feet long and weigh over 13 tons. A tow truck would look like a toy car next to it. These trucks have a maximum speed of about 15 miles per hour. The vitro trucks have a hydraulic powered plate can be lowered to the ground to produce the sound vibrations needed to discover the seismic deposits. The plate on the truck vibrates 250 times per second over a very short period of time. The vibrations are completed while the truck is driving at a very slow rate of speed. Typically the truck omits a frequency between 10 hertz and 100 hertz. The sound waves that are produced by the truck are not heard by the human ear and are referred to as seismic waves. This technology or way of locating seismic activity is used to perform nearly half of all the seismic surveys of land.

Geothermal energy hopefully will play a more potential role in United States and other regions of the world. This form of energy is more sustainable and as we move towards a “cleaner planet” hopefully it can be unitized. This source of energy is one of the very few renewable energy technologies that are a continuous supply and a baseload of power. Unlike nuclear power plants and coal, binary geothermal plants are as flexible source of energy to balance out the use of wind, solar, and running water. A binary geothermal plant has the ability to up production multiple times each day. This range can vary from 10 percent to 100 percent in a normal day based on the needs of the plant. With the knowledge of the ‘source’ and the education of the renewable recourse the facilities are becoming more and more affordable and the market will become increasingly more competitive. If the projections of the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) are correct soon be could be producing energy for less than 5 cents per kilowatt hour.

Tapping into the full potential of this technology will require two technologies to emerge and have further development in the Enhanced Geothermal Systems and coproduction of geothermal electricity in oil and gas sources. Investments are starting to expand the prospects of geothermal energy production and most likely this will continue the bring knowledge and understanding of the sustainable energy force it is able to produce.

Posted by: S. Jones on Category: Geothermal Energy