Geothermal energy " the heat of the Earth " is a clean, renewable resource that provides energy in the world. The U.S. has been using commercial, large-scale geothermal power plants at deep resource temperatures (between 200 ̊F and 700 ̊F) since the 1960s. Geothermal energy development and production is a thriving international market.
2. What is geothermal energy?
Heat has been radiating from the center of the Earth for some 4.5 billion years. At 6437.4 km (4,000miles) deep, the center of the Earth hovers around the same temperatures as the sun's surface, 9932°F or (5,500°C) see(Figure 1).
( Figure .1 ) : temperature in the earth , source (GEA)
Scientists estimate that 42 million megawatts (MW) of power flow from the Earth’s interior, primarily by conduction Geothermal energy is a renewable resource (The National Energy Policy Act of , 1992). One of its biggest advantages is that it is constantly available. The constant flow of heat from the Earth ensures an inexhaustible and essentially limitless supply of energy for billions of years to come (the Pacific Northwest Electric Power Planning and Conservation Act of , 1980) .
The uses of geothermal for heat and other purposes were indigenous practices across a variety of world cultures: " The Maoris in New Zealand and Native Americans used water from hot springs for cooking and medicinal purposes for thousands of years. The people of Pompeii, living too close to Mount Vesuvius, tapped hot water from the earth to heat their buildings. Romans used geothermal waters for treating eye and skin disease. The Japanese have enjoyed geothermal spas for centuries " ( Nersesian page334) . Rainwater and snowmelt feed underground thermal aquifers. When hot water or steam is trapped in cracks and pores under a layer of impermeable rock, it forms a geothermal reservoir.
A viable geothermal system requires heat, permeability, and water. Developers explore a geothermal reservoir to test its potential for development by drilling and testing temperatures and flow rates. The First Geothermal Plant at the Larderello , Italy dry steam field, Prince Piero Ginori Conti first proved the viability of geothermal power plant technology in 1904 .
3. What is a baseload power source?
A baseload power plant produces energy at a constant rate. addition to geothermal, nuclear and coal-fired plants are also baseload. Because the energy is constant, its power output can remain consistent nearly 24 hours a day, giving geothermal energy a higher capacity factor than solar or wind power, which must wait for the sun to shine or the wind to blow, respectively. This means a geothermal plant with a smaller capacity than a solar or wind plant can provide more actual, delivered electricity. In geothermal development, one megawatt is roughly equivalent to the electricity used by 1,000 homes.
A geothermal plant can also be engineered to be firm, flexible, or load following, and otherwise support the needs of the grid ( GEA “ The Values" ). Most geothermal plants being built now have adjustable dispatching capabilities. In addition to geothermal, natural gas is dispatchable. This means a geothermal plant can meet fluctuating needs, such as those caused by the intermittency of solar and wind power.
4. How does a conventional geothermal power plant work?
After careful exploration and analysis, wells are drilled to bring geothermal energy to the surface, where it is converted into electricity. (Figure: 2) in the next page shows the geothermal installed capacity in the U.S. from 1975 to 2012,separated by technology type. the (USGS) has defined moderate-temperature resources as those between 90°C and 150°C (194 to 302°F), and high-temperature geothermal systems as those greater than 150°C. the three commercial types of conventional geothermal power plants is : flash, dry steam, and binary.
( Figure :2) : Total U.S. Geothermal Installed Capacity by Technology(MW) 1975–2012. source (GEA)
4.1 A geothermal flash power plant
In a geothermal flash power plant, high pressure separates steam from water in a “steam separator” (Figure 3) as the water rises and as pressure drops. The steam is delivered to the turbine, and the turbine then powers a generator. The liquid is re-injected into the reservoir. In U.S , Under one-third of the installed geothermal capacity, is comprised of flash power plants, with the majority in California (GEA “Annual” 2012, page 7).
(figure: 3) a geothermal flash power plant source (GEA)
4.2 A geothermal dry steam power plant
In a geothermal dry steam power plant, steam alone is produced directly from the geothermal reservoir and is used to run the turbines that power the generator (Figure 4). Because there is no water, the steam separator used in a flash plant is not necessary. In U.S , the Dry-steam power plants account for approximately 50% of installed geothermal capacity. and are located in California.
(figure: 4) A geothermal dry steam power plant , source (GEA)
4.3 A geothermal binary power plant
In 1981 at a project in Imperial Valley, California, Ormat Technologies established the technical feasibility of the third conventional type of large-scale commercial geothermal power plant: binary. The project was so successful that Ormat repaid its loan to the Department of Energy (DOE) within a year.7 Binary geothermal plants have made it possible to produce electricity from geothermal resources lower than 302°F (150°C). This has expanded the U.S. industry’s geographical footprint, especially in the last decade.
Binary plants use an Organic Rankine Cycle system, which uses geothermal water to heat a second liquid that boils at a lower temperature than water, such as isobutane or .This is called a working fluid (Figure: 5). A heat exchanger separates the water from the working fluid while transferring the heat energy. When the working fluid vaporizes, the force of the expanding vapor, like steam, turns the turbines that power the generators. The geothermal water is then reinjected in a closed loop.
(figure: 5) A geothermal binary power plant , source (GEA)
5. How do geothermal heat pumps work?
Animals burrow underground for warmth in the winter and to escape the heat of the summer. The same basic principle of constant, moderate temperature in the subsurface is applied to geothermal heat pumps (GHPs). GHPs utilize average ground temperatures between 40˚and 70˚F. In 1948, a professor at Ohio State University developed the first GHP for use at his residence. A groundwater heat pump came into commercial use in Oregon around the same time.
GHP heating and cooling systems circulate water or other liquids to pull heat from the Earth through pipes in a continuous loop through a heat pump and conventional duct system. For cooling, the process is reversed; the system extracts heat from the building and moves it back into the Earth loop. The loop system can be used almost everywhere in the world at depths below 10 ft to 300 ft. GHPs are used in all 50 states and are over 45% more energy efficient than standard heating and cooling system options.
Homeowners who install qualified GHPs are eligible for a 30% federal tax credit through December 31, 2016. They can be buried conveniently on a property such as under a landscaped area, parking lot, or pond, either horizontally or vertically (Figure 9). A GHP system can also direct the heat to a water heater unit for hot water use.
(figure:6) geothermal heat pumps work
6. Environmental Benefits
In an international community increasingly worried about worsening effects of climate change, geothermal can play an important role in reducing air emissions. Experts generally agree that effects of climate change pose significant environmental dangers, including flood risks, drought, glacial melting, forest fires, rising sea levels, loss of biodiversity, and potential health dangers. and most geothermal plants being developed will produce nearly zero air emissions. So, using geothermal helps to offset energy-related carbon dioxide, which accounted for 82% of greenhouse gas (GHG).
Using geothermal also eliminates the mining, processing, and transporting required for electricity generation from fossil fuel resources; and, it has among the smallest surface land footprint per kilowatt (kW) of any power generation technology. Geothermal power plants are designed and constructed to minimize the potential effects on wildlife and vegetation in compliance with a host of state and federal regulations. A thorough environmental review is required before construction of a generating facility can begin. Subsequent monitoring and mitigation of any environmental impacts continues throughout the life of the plant.