Geothermal energy is a type of energy that is actually pulled from the ground. Geothermal actually means internal heat of

Geothermal energy is a type of energy that is actually pulled from the ground. Geothermal actually means internal heat of the Earth. Deep in the base of the Earth are layers of hot water, hot rock and magma. These different layers provide more heat than just for themselves. That in a nutshell is what geothermal energy is. It comes from different layers of the Earth and can provide heat as well as cooling to a variety of different areas


The earth originated from a completely molten state. It’s believed that the earth would have cooled and become a completely solid rock many thousands of years ago if the only energy input was from that of the sun. Scientists believe that geothermal energy’s source is radioactive decay from deep within the earth.


There is only a fraction of the thermal energy of the earth can be used. This is only in areas where water vapor can transfer heat to the surface of the earth. In 2012 the United States produced the most geothermal electricity. A geothermal field in California, known as at the Geysers, is the largest group of geothermal power plants in the world. The United States generates roughly 15 billion kilowatt hours of geothermal power per year, this is the equivalent of burning 25 million barrels of oil or 6 million tons of coal per year.

Currently a major use for geothermal energy is to provide heat a commercial building. This is achieved by placing pipes under the business that go down into the layers of the Earth. The heat then can be put to use heating and cooling the building. However, the most common use for this type of energy is for electricity. There are wells used to drive a turbine that generates electricity.

Because geothermal energy relies on something that occurs naturally in the Earth, there is very little cost involved with geothermal energy and virtually no danger of hurting the Earth. The largest expense is the drilling and installation of the system. There is also a lot less energy needed for the heating and cooling process. The temperature increase or decrease that is needed, is much lower than that of traditional methods heat or cool the air from outside to the temperature needed inside.

This is because temperatures only need to be heated or cooled within 10 degrees. This means a much shorter time spent in waiting for this temperature change and a much lower expense involved to produce the desired temperature.



(Image source: National Renewable Energy Laboratory)

Geothermal energy has the largest potential in the western part of our country. Geothermal plants are very site-specific and are limited to places that have highly accessible deposits of high temperature ground water. With a lack transmission lines, in western states there have been limitations on its growth. The other major limitation has been the fact that completing a geothermal power generating project takes anywhere from 4 to 8 years which is much longer than completion timelines for solar or wind.

As technology progresses forward, it is expected that the turnaround time for a geothermal build out will be reduced substantially. Once this is achieved, we will be able to better utilize one of the worlds cheapest and best kept secrets for renewable energy. The earth itself.


Matt Helland
Senior Vice President- North American Energy Advisory




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