Geothermal Heating – A Green Alternative Energy Source

Ask any miner and he or she will tell you that it is hot underground; and the deeper you go, the hotter it gets. This is because the deepest mines lie that little bit closer to the immense mass of compressed molten metal that comprises the core of the earth. The heat radiates from the core, all the way to and through the mantel. This massive heat, discernible just a few short miles below the surface of the earth seen in a Geothermal Map, has the potential to revolutionise the way we all heat our homes, amongst other energy uses.

Geothermal energy is the latest buzzword exciting the ranks of ecology conscious scientists. Unlike other current forms of ‘green’ energy, for example, wind turbines and solar panels, geothermal heating will be operational for most of the time, providing ‘baseline’ or constant energy, rather than simply ‘helping out’ at peak times.

In California in the USA, existing geothermal heating systems work for approximately 98 per cent of the time, as compared to existing fossil-fuel based or even nuclear power systems which operate 75 to 90 per cent of the time, dependant on the age and maintenance needs of the machinery and equipment. Today we can already see great examples of geothermal powered buildings across the country.

Harnessing geothermal energy involves drilling down through the crust, and harnessing the natural heat of the planet’s core.

It is hoped that developments will reduce the cost of drilling and the method of transporting the heat or heated fluids to the desired destinations as these two factors are the main drawbacks in geothermal energy designs. At present the cost of drilling down through layers of rock and sediment to optimum depths is prohibitive and not cost-effective to roll out on a larger scale. There is also the problem of transporting the geothermal energy over distance. As yet, there is no effective method of transporting geothermal energy over long distances, which has necessitated that buildings be built at, or very close to, the location of the geothermal drilling.

Rolling out a large-scale geothermal-based energy system may well require the renovation of the entire energy transport system, that is, changing from the current electrical lines and gas pipelines to a different form; an exercise likely to meet with fierce objections on the grounds of costs and disruption to homes and businesses, not to mention roads and highways, along which the new framework would be set.

On a much smaller scale, it is already possible to convert single buildings and residences to utilise geothermal energy, especially for heating said building. Ground source heat pumps draw heat from the very ground and pump it into a building’s heating system; air source heat pumps do a similar feat, drawing heat from the air. Air source heat pumps can be surprisingly efficient when properly installed, supplying enough energy to heat domestic water to a very acceptable 80°F and completely fulfilling heating needs. Ground source heat pumps are similar to full-scale geothermal systems but usually do not penetrate deep enough to take advantage of the earth’s internal heat; rather it is the heat from the sun that has soaked into the earth that is drawn into the ground source heat pump.

The beauty of geothermal energy is that, if developed properly, it can replace the more harmful forms of energy production that we use at present, replacing it with a clean, practically limitless, always reliable source of power. At present energy producing plants produce a fair amount of waste and pollution. It is estimated that geothermal energy plants will emit little in the way of waste materials.

Geothermal energy can, with modern ingenuity, be converted into different forms of energy, the most notable being electricity. If we can reduce our reliance on rapidly depleting fossil fuels by embracing geothermal energy it could potentially avert an energy crisis that is already being predicted by many industry experts. Producing your own energy can be beneficial when it comes to power outages. Companies such as GI Energy provide heat pumps and power solutions which can be installed in apartments, hospitals, universities and other large buildings. The announcement of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo of a $20 million support for clean-energy projects after the hurricane Sandy is a great sign for the alternative energy source going into a green direction.