Geothermal energy has vast resources that are estimated to be larger than coal, oil, natural gas, and uranium combined. Numerous surveys have been conducted to determine how much usable energy is available, and the consensus seems to indicate that there are enough resources to last between 500,000 and 1,000,000 years, thus it has been classified as a limitless and renewable form of energy.
The most common use found for geothermal energy is to power electricity generators in power plants. The deciding factor for most companies when building a new power plant is the cost of running the plant. When a cost comparison has been made between a new facility designed to use geothermal energy and a new facility designed to use fossil fuels. The operating cost of the geothermal plant is very competitive (4.5 to 7.3 cents per kilowatt hour) to that of the plant that uses fossil fuel to power the turbines. The main difference between the two is that the flame that fossil fuel emits is full of pollutants, which is one of our main health problems, while geothermal energy does not have a flame, so health and safety problems do not exist. .
The only country that has really benefited so far from geothermal energy is Iceland. No wonder here, it just seems natural with so many geothermal springs on the island and all the volcanic activity they have, you could say that Iceland is one big geothermal spring. Currently about 75% of Iceland’s energy comes from geothermal energy and they are striving to be the first country to be 100% free of any reliance on fossil fuels for electricity.
In order to practically use geothermal, you must first find a hydrothermal site commonly called a geothermal spring. Once you have found a promising site, start digging to determine if there is enough hydrothermal activity. The depth to which it must drill is uncertain, typically for every 100 meters (328 feet) it goes into the Earth’s crust, the temperature of the rocks will rise by 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit). Once a geothermal spring has been found, the most common application is to use the energy to drive turbines to generate electricity.
Most geothermal springs are found along major plate boundaries, which is also where most volcanic activity and earthquakes are concentrated. The most active areas have been located along the “Ring of Fire” that borders the Pacific Ocean. Some of the western states that are close to the Pacific coast have been using some geothermal energy to supplement their energy needs, with California getting about 6% of its electricity from geothermal, while Nevada has about 4% and Utah about 2%. .
There are a couple of limiting factors that will prevent geothermal energy from being widely used. One factor is that geothermal springs are only found in limited areas and the other is being able to keep the power plant connected to hot spots. The Yellowstone area of Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana has many geothermal spring sites, however these springs always move along with the tectonic plate, which eliminates the feasibility of building power plants there, as the energy source is move to.
It seems that with today’s current technology, Iceland being the exception, geothermal energy, even with its vast resource, will always be a limited form of clean energy compared to solar and wind power.