The word Geothermal is derived from Greek where geo means earth and therme means heat. Geothermal energy is like any other natural source of energy available to us. It can be used in many ways like generating a high amount of electricity or in the form of pumping systems. This article will provide a gist of various uses of this energy.
Below the earth’s crust various fluids exist under tremendous pressure which can be utilized as a source of power in diverse fields like agriculture, aquaculture, industries, etc. Geothermal resources are usually found along land areas where earthquakes and volcanoes occur. The area where the energy is concentrated is called the ring of fire which covers the pacific ocean. One common way to use geothermal energy is by constructing bore wells into the Earth. To extract energy, holes are made deep into the earth with a drill machine. Then through a pipe, the hot steam rises to the top which is further channeled to a turbine to generate power.
Geothermal Energy Uses
It is a renewable source of energy because heat and steam are continuously produced underground which is available to us at anytime. There are two uses of geothermal energy, one is the direct use or application of the energy and other is electricity generation. The direct use involves generating heat or steam directly from underground resources without using a heat pump or a geothermal power plant. There are various fields that can extract geothermal energy for different purposes. The following are the fields in which this energy is prominently used:
Paper mills use geothermal energy for all paper processing stages. The heat generated from it is used for drying wood. It is also used to extract precious metals like gold, silver, etc., from mines. Timber is dried using the heat extracted from this energy. For preserving fruits and vegetables for longer time, they are dried up, i.e., the water contained in them is removed slowly. With geothermal drying, color, flavor and freshness of the food stay unaffected. Even the nutritional value of the processed food is retained.
In Aquaculture and Agriculture
Geothermal energy helps in raising marine life. The aquatic animals that are typically raised are carp, catfish, frogs, mussels, crabs, scallops, crayfish and oysters. Normally, marine organisms depend on heat coming from the sun to feed and perform metabolic activities. When water temperature goes below a required level, it becomes difficult for aquatic animals to carry out these activities. So to overcome this difficulty, a geothermal water supply can be used. The temperature of this water is constant and creates a natural climate suitable for aquatic animals. Sometimes aquacultural ponds are constructed to grow marine organisms. While constructing these ponds water quality and disease possibilities must be taken into consideration. A water examination program would be an appropriate initial step.
In agriculture it is mostly used for the purpose of green house heating. It is also used for drying and processing vegetables and fruits. Drying of vegetables specifically involves drying of tomato, onion, chilly, etc.
In Electricity Generation
Generating electricity is one of the two major uses of geothermal energy. It is a very energy-efficient method to generate a source of renewable energy. It does not emit harmful gases while generating power. It is used to generate geothermal power to produce a very large amount of electricity.
Geothermal energy uses are common even for residential purposes in the form of Geothermal heating and cooling systems. Heat pumps are used in many houses to get hot water for carrying out household chores. In winter, through a heat pump, houses are warmed whereas in summer it acts as a coolant because the process of the heat pump is reversed and heat from the house is carried into the pipe system and dumped underground. Even roads are prevented over in winter using geothermal energy.
The benefits of using geothermal energy are many, amongst which the important ones are:
- It is a renewable source of energy.
- It has low operating costs once the power generating system is available.
- The emission of gases while generating geothermal power is very low.
- It contributes in providing a pollution-free environment.
Many industries worldwide, benefit by using this source of energy. Its uses are common in countries like Switzerland, New Zealand, etc. In New Zealand, it is used primarily to generate electricity. But in some areas of New Zealand it is also used for domestic purposes that involve a direct use of geothermal energy. The heated water is used for washing, bathing, cooking, etc., and natural heaters are used to generate warmth in houses.
Constant use of geothermal energy will definitely help to save the environment from the hazards that can be caused by using other non-renewable sources of energy. Though the installation costs are very high, it is useful if used with proper knowledge of its working system.