What’s the Story with Geothermal Power?


geothermalBy now, you’ve heard about renewable energy sources like solar power, hydropower, and wind power. These are all pretty self-explanatory – solar power comes from the sun, hydropower comes from moving water, and wind power comes from wind. But what about geothermal power? How do we get power from the ground?

The Earth’s Heat

Underneath the Earth’s crust, there are naturally radioactive materials that produce molten rock called magma. This magma keeps the Earth continuously warm, with the hottest spots occurring along tectonic plates (many of them in the western part of the U.S.). Geothermal energy can be used on a large scale, such as a geothermal power plant, or a small scale, such as a home pump system. While the U.S.’s hot spots are the best spots for power plants, there’s a constant warmth in the ground all over the country that’s perfect for smaller geothermal projects (like those for homes).

Power Plants

Around 80% of our country’s geothermal power plants are located in California because of the state’s abundant hot spots. These power plants can turn this heat into power using three different methods: dry steam, flash steam, and the binary cycle.

In the dry steam method, a turbine is drilled into the Earth’s rock layers and draws up the steam that naturally occurs underground. The steam is then pumped through a generator to create electricity. In the flash steam method, the turbine drilled into the rock layers draws up the hot water under the ground. The hot water is then pumped into a pressurizer and creates steam to produce electricity.

In the binary cycle, which is different from the steam methods, the Earth’s hot water is only used to heat another liquid that can produce steam at a lower temperature than water. That steam is then used to produce electricity and the water is never extracted.

Home Systems

Because warmth can be found anywhere from 10 feet below the ground to a couple hundred feet below the ground, home systems don’t need giant turbines to harness the Earth’s energy. Instead, a heat pump and a loop system is incorporated into the ground. Inside the loop system is water that constantly circulates. The water is heated via the ground warmth and is then carried to the heat pump, where it’s turned into warm air and distributed throughout your home as heat. During the summer, the process reverses and the heat pump produces cool air instead.

A Green Solution

Geothermal heating and cooling systems are an environmentally friendly solution for nearly anyone. They use little electricity and produce no greenhouse gasses, which can lower your carbon footprint. If you’re interested in using the Earth to power your home, give us a call and we’ll set up a geothermal heating and cooling installation as soon as possible.