What is geothermal energy?
The prefix “geo” comes from the Greek word meaning “earth”, and the suffix “thermal” comes from the Greek word meaning “heat”. Put together, geothermal energy is simply any energy that is produced via the earth’s heat!
What applications of geothermal energy are there?
There are three ways to use geothermal energy: direct-use systems, power plants, and ground-source heat pumps.
Direct-use systems are what most people associate with “geothermal energy” — natural saunas that are found in places like Iceland and New Zealand. The products of direct-use geothermal systems are hot water and hot steam, which are typically used in commercial applications, such as tourism.
Geothermal Power Plants
Geothermal power plants are typically built over sites of tectonic or volcanic activity, where they convert the heat escaping from the earth’s magma to electricity for local communities. Did you know the largest geothermal power plant complex in the world is found in the United States, not Iceland?
Ground-source heat pumps
Ground-source heat pumps circulate underground heat to and from buildings to provide heating in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. They are compatible with a wide range of geographic features and are applicable to residential and commercial settings alike.
Is geothermal a renewable energy?
Yes, in all three applications, geothermal is a renewable and sustainable energy source that does not rely upon any fossil fuels in operation. In some cases, your ground-source heat pump may still indirectly run on fossil fuels, depending upon your electricity source. However, there is still a significant reduction in fossil fuel burning when using geothermal as opposed to fossil fuel furnaces to heat and cool your home.