Out of all alternative energies I’ve researched, geothermal energy is in my opinion the most interesting. Geothermal energy is harnessing the heat from below the earth’s surface. By drilling holes in the earth’s surface, steam from underground water is captured to turn turbines. This power’s generators that can hold and transfer electricity. Capturing geothermal energy is extremely popular in some countries because it is an easy and renewable alternative energy source. In fact, more than 25 percent of all electricity in the Philippines Iceland, and El Salvador is produced by geothermal energy.
A Look at the United States
The United States has more geothermal capacity than any other country, producing over 3,000 megawatts of electricity from plants in eight different states. Of this capacity, 80% is from California, where over 40 plants provide 5% of the state’s electricity. Although there are plenty of places across the United States that could provide geothermal energy, heat pumps aren’t installed more places because it can be costly. However, some businesses have heat pumps installed so that their buildings can have electricity virtually free of charge.
So what really is below Earth’s surface?
Underneath Earth’s crust there is a layer of hot molten rock known as magma. This magma is constantly producing heat from decaying radioactive materials, such as uranium and potassium. To put this heat into perspective, the amount of heat within 10,000 meters of the Earth’s surface produces about 50,000 times the amount of all energy oil and natural gas provide. Some areas are hotter than others, however, with the hottest areas being around active or young volcanoes. These regions are called “hot spots” because of how much hotter they are. The reason “hot spots” are so hot is because they are located at tectonic plate boundaries, where most volcanoes are located. One of the greatest known “hot spots” near the United States is the Ring of Fire, which is located along the Pacific Ocean. This region affects the entire western side of the United States, giving it temperatures below the surface almost twice that of the East coast. Altogether, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated that 13 of the hottest western states could produce electricity estimates of 8,000-73,000 megawatts, which is significantly more than the United States’ current production.
Geothermal Energy in the Future
Geothermal energy is truly a fascinating form of alternative energy. It’s completely renewable, clean, and doesn’t affect the environment like other ways of capturing energy do. If established in more places across the United States and the world, reliance on oil and natural gas will no longer be necessary. Our harmful impacts on the environment will also be cut, increasing sustainability. While geothermal energy may not become a major energy source for a long time, it could (and probably will) one day become the largest energy resource of all.