Geothermal Energy

A Proposal to Harness the Earth's Heat

What is renewable & geothermal energy?

Renewable energy is any type of energy that is generated by renewable resources, meaning the resources will be replenished and often relatively quickly. Geothermal energy is the actual heat of the earth and it can be used in two efficient ways. This heat can be obtained from just a few feet underground, all the way down to where molten rock and magma are.

How can it be used?

Geothermal energy can be used to either produce electricity or heat/cool a building. To heat/cool a building, a heat pump system consisting of a heat pump, ductwork, and a heat exchanger are installed underground near the building. In the winter, the heat pump will remove heat from the heat exchanger, pump it into the indoor air delivery system (ductwork), heating the building. In the summer this is reversed and the pump will move heat from the indoor air into the heat exchanger. This heat can also be used to provide a free source of hot water.

Geothermal energy can also be used to produce electricity, using the steam from reservoirs of hot water to rotate a turbine and start a generator. There are 3 types of geothermal power plants, dry steam, flash steam and binary cycle.

Dry steam plants pipe steam directly from underground wells into the plant and to a turbine.

Flash steam plants use reservoirs of water with temperatures greater than 182°C, where the hot water rises because of its own pressure. As it flows upward, the pressure decreases, and the water boils into steam as a result. The steam is directed to a turbine, while any leftover water is directed back into the reservoir, making it sustainable.

Binary cycle uses hot water to boil a working fluid, often an organic compound with a low boiling point, and then vaporize it in a heat exchanger, then finally turn a turbine.

Why geothermal?

Geothermal energy has very little, or even no impact on the environment, and the plumes seen from geothermal energy plants are actually vapor emissions, not smoke. It is also incredibly convenient because although certain areas are easier to gather the energy from, it can still be collected from anywhere and it will never run out. It has many uses ranging from simply heating a family home to drying crops for farmers. To add on top of that, it is incredibly reliable, as it operates at 95%-99% plant availability, meaning it can be counted on to produce a steady stream of power with no interruptions.

Can it be installed in schools?

It can be installed in schools and some have been installed in the Midwest of the USA. At Table Mound Elementary School in Dubuque, Iowa, a geothermal heating system was installed in 2002. It proved to be successful, and now the school is heated and air conditioned using this system. A geothermal system can be implemented as there is a large field outside Glenforest and by implementing it, heating costs will be reduced as well as environmental costs. It is also a a good learning experience as the digging for the geothermal system can be viewed as it happens.