Geothermal Energy

a revolutionary, game-changing natural resource


Geothermal energy is heat from the earth and a clean and sustainable natural resources. Geothermal resources include shallow ground resources, such as how water and rock found a few miles beneath the Earth's surface, and magma, which is much deeper below the Earth's surface.

Shallow ground is defined as the upper 10 feet of the surface ,and has temperatures ranging from 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Geothermal heat pumps can tap into these resources to heat and cool buildings.

Hot dry rock resources can be found across the Earth 3 to 5 miles and lesser depths beneath the surface. Access to these resources includes injecting cold water down one well, circulating the water through the hot fractured rock, and drawing off the heated water from another well. There are no commercial applications yet for this technology. Technology also has not allowed the recovery of heat directly from magma yet.

Geothermal energy is commonly used for geothermal heat pump systems to heat and cool buildings. These systems consist of a heat pump, an aur delivery system, and a heat exchanger. In the Winter, the pump removes heat from the heat exchanger and pumps the heat into the indoor air delivery system. In the Summer, the process is reversed and the pump moves heat from the indoor air to the heat exchanger. This

heat removed can also be used to provide a free source of hot water.

In the United States, most geothermal resevoirs of hot water are located in the Western states, such as Alaska and Hawaii. Wells are drilled into these underground resevoirs to generate electricity. Power plants can use the steam from these resevoirs to power their turbines or generators. Hot water near the Earth's surface can be used directly for heat as well.

Direct-use applications of geothermal energy include heating buildings, growing plants in greenhouses, drying crops, heating water at fish farms, and industrial processes such as pasteurizing milk.

Geothermal energy is environmentally friendly because there are no fossil fuels burned in the use of geothermal resources. The supply of these resources is constant and without limits, as well. When generating heat for a home system, the space required for the system is very condensed, as the standard geothermal heat pump is not larger than a small fridge.

However, the space needed for a piping system is a drawback. Also, the repair and maintenance of these pipes are not easy with their underground locations. Geothermal energy also cannot be transferred long distances. Drawbacks also include the hazards caused by geothermal gases, such as hydrogen sulfide.

Current Events

Summary of "Iceland Looks to Export Power Bubbling From Below"

Krafla, the home of Iceland’s first geothermal power station, is a showcase of Iceland’s mastery of renewable energy resources. However, the question of what to do with the excessive amount of electricity the country is capable of producing remains. With a population of just 320,000 people, the state-owned power company sells only 17 percent of its electricity to households and local industry. With the remaining energy, Iceland would only need to find a way to transfer the electricity across the sea that separates it from the European Union to access a potentially huge market.

Iceland has been conducting research into the construction of a massive extension cord, or “submarine interconnector,” to connect Iceland to Europe’s electricity grid. The length of such a cord would be more than three times longer than a link between Norway and the Netherlands, which is currently the world’s longest. However, the estimated cost of such a cord is greater than $2 billion. The people of Iceland fear becoming an ice-covered version of Middle East nations, but supporters of the cable idea “are looking for easy money, but who is going to pay in the end?” said an Icelandic blogger.

The idea of exporting electricity to Europe is not new, and has been “technically doable for some time,” said the state-owned power company’s chief executive, “but it was not seen as economically feasible until recently.” This change has been because of a goal by the European Union to make deriving at least 20 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2020 a mandatory target.

Whether or not Iceland pursues to cable project depends on a government committee now reviewing the idea. However, there is pressure to find new markets for its electricity as the gap between plentiful supply and local demand widens.

Environmental groups in Iceland are warning that the profit of constructing a sea cable would be one of Iceland’s biggest-ever business opportunities, but it would have an “enormous environmental impact” through the construction of new power plants and overhead power lines. Geothermal energy is much cleaner than coal, gas or oil in terms of carbon emissions, but the building of huge plants to harness the energy, often in vulnerable areas, hurts the environment. Environmentalists also complan that geothermal plants are not nearly as green as their boosters say, pointing to the problems caused by large amounts of wastewater and the release of hydrogen sulfide gas. They also worry that drilling bore holes deep into the seismically sensitive earth can set off or accelerate earthquakes.

The director general of the National Energy Authority says that Iceland has so much geothermal energy that “there is no real limit” to how much power can be generated. However, pushing too far in exploiting the reserves would require cracking large amounts of rock and investment. This, he said, means that Iceland should avoid ambitions of becoming a “geothermal Saudi Arabia,” and remain mindful of its limits. He also says that if Iceland exported everything it has now, they could perhaps supply Paris.

Summary of "Font of Natural Energy in the Philippines, Crippled by Nature"

Engineers in the Philippines have been drilling a series of boreholes into hot volcanic rocks to tap into the superheated water under enormous pressure. The water surges to the surface and turns into steam and cools, spinning turbines that produce five times the electricity that all of Leyte Island can consume. However, Typhoon Haiyan hit Leyte Island recently, killing thousands of people and damaging the crucial geothermal operations there. The Philippines, a country that has contributed almost nothing to the global accumulation of greenhouse gases, has become the victim of a storm that is attributed to the results of climate change.

The Tongonan geothermal field on western Leyte Island is the world’s second-largest producer of geothermal energy. President Ferdinand E. Marcos began developing it in the late 1970s as a response to the Arab oil embargo of 1973. The original goal was not environmental, but to reduce the Philippines’ dependence on imported energy and save money on fuel bills. After the initial demonstration project was successful, five geothermal plants were built in the mid-1990s, each big enough to power the whole island. The field here differs from many geothermal sites around the world because the underground rocks are hotter and what comes up from the boreholes is superpressurized water instead of steam.

Four of the power plants built rely on first spinning the turbines with the tendency of water at such high temperatures to expand into steam, and then to spin further turbines as the steam cools. The power plants were also designed to condense the steam into water in steal-reinforced wooden cooling towers for reinjection into the ground. Typhoon Haiyan destroyed all four cooling towers. The fifth power plant suffered much less damage because it does not protrude so high above the surrounding terrain. The power company planned on bringing the plants back into full service and powering Leyte Island by the national target for restoring electricity after Haiyan, December 24.

Power plants elsewhere in the Philippines made up for the loss of the geothermal capacity on Leyte Island, resulting in other islands not suffering electricity failures. Only one-ninth of the Philippines’ electricity consumption comes from geothermal energy, most of which is generated on Leyte Island. Geothermal power produces half of the electricity in the central Philippines, but the northern Philippines relies more heavily on coal.

The underground rocks on Leyte Island are not expected to cool significantly for another million years, and the underground water is constantly being recharged by water percolating down from the surface. While geothermal power has been a success in the Philippines, not many other countries have similar resources to use. Notably, China has not found any hot underground water for electricity generation there to combat being the largest emitter of global warming gases.


Our group believes that geothermal energy should be used for energy because it is clean and sustainable. While it can only be accessed in certain locations such as Iceland and the Philippines and it is not easy to transfer, it is technically doable. In Iceland, a power company is contemplating constructing a cord to provide their excess electricity from their geothermal plants to the European power grid. Also, geothermal heat pump systems are incredibly efficient energy-wise and in cost. The energy itself is in constant supply and has no limits, as well.



Conventional high efficiency gas forced air heating systems are 92-94% efficient. This means that for every dollar spent buying energy, 92 to 94 cents worth of heat of energy is returned. Geothermal heat pumps, however, are measured in Coefficients of Performance(COP). A heat pump operating at a COP of 4.0 provides 4 units of heat for each unit of energy consumed during heating season. This means that for every dollar spent on energy, you receive a 4 dollar return. With a properly designed and installed geothermal system, there is a life expectancy of 20 to 25 years and an expected 3 to 5 year payback with most property.


Over 2,800 megawatts of electricity from geothermal power plants are supplying about 4 million people in the United States.

Geothermal power plants are producing over 8,200 megawatts of electricity in 21 countries, supporting about 60 million people, most of which are in developing countries.


Bradsher, Keith. "Font of Natural Energy in the Philippines, Crippled by Nature." The New York Times. The New York Times Company, 21 Nov. 2013. Web.

Higgins, Andrew. "Iceland Looks to Export Power Bubbling From Below." The New York Times. The New York Times Company, 20 Feb. 2013. Web.

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"How Efficient Is Geothermal, What's The Cost? Go Geothermal Now." How Efficient Is Geothermal, What's The Cost? Go Geothermal Now. Earth Energy Services LLC, n.d. Web. <>.

"Introduction to Geothermal Energy - US Geothermal Statistics." Introduction to Geothermal Energy - US Geothermal Statistics. Geothermal Education Office, n.d. Web. <>.