Working of Geothermal Power Plant
Energy is one of the single most important things on this planet, and it makes things like this article possible in the first place. It comes as no surprise that humankind is continually trying to refine our methods of energy production, and balancing them with the damage that they do to nature.
Geothermal energy promises to be one of the cleanest and most effective forms of creating energy, as we’re harnessing the heat of the earth itself when we use it. In this short article, we’re going to describe how a geothermal power plant works, and we’ll go over a few more details about them.
What is a Geothermal Power Plant?
As you may expect from the name, a geothermal power plant is a complex that is designed to create electricity using geothermal energy. To do this, they usually have miles of heat transfer pipes that are sunk beneath the soil. This is because geothermal power uses the heat of the earth to create energy.
There are plenty of different kinds of geothermal power plants, and their exact size will depend on what they power and their overall output.
What can be Powered by a Geothermal Power Plant?
The most common use for a geothermal power plant is the creation of electricity for residential, commercial, and industrial use. Some geothermal plants are assigned to a certain neighborhood, and the larger ones will be able to meet the energy demands of a whole area on their own.
In other applications, where larger amounts of energy may be required, a geothermal plant may be used to power heavy industry. Unlike nuclear or coal power, geothermal plants are not mobile, and they can’t be used to power ships, as a stationary network of pipes is required to create the energy.
How Does a Geothermal Power Plant Operate?
If you know how other power plants work, then you already know half of what you need to about geothermal ones, but for the sake of completeness, we’ll go through the entire process. The first thing that’s required is a geothermal well, which is dug into the earth so that pipes can circulate geothermal fluid which is heated by the soil.
When this fluid is heated to a sufficient temperature, it is pressurized, and a lot of it turns into steam, which is then run into a turbine. The turbine blades spin because of the steam which flows through them, and this rotational energy is transferred to a shaft that is connected to the hub of the turbine.
This shaft is connected to an electrical generator, which is used to create electricity. The generator contains powerful electromagnets, which spin inside of a coil and generate electrical power. Once the energy is converted to electricity, it can then be sent to a transformer located elsewhere in the plant.
These transformers are connected to the power grid, and they feed it with the converted geothermal energy. Most power plants use a similar method to produce electricity, with the only difference being how the steam is created. In a geothermal system, the steam is created through the heat of the earth.
Geothermal Power Output
A lot of people argue that geothermal power is less efficient than other methods of electricity production, so we’ll take a look at power output from these kinds of plants. Since geothermal energy is a relatively recent innovation, it can’t hope to match coal and fossil fuel on a worldwide scale, but it is still responsible for generating a sizable amount of electricity.
In 2010, there was a total of 11000 MW of power being produced by countries using geothermal power plants. The major limiting factor for geothermal energy is whether or not there is a significant amount of heat under the soil, making power plants much more efficient in volcanically active areas.
So while geothermal power plants may not have a noticeably lower power output than other methods of generation, they’re a lot more situational. If a country doesn’t have a region with heightened tectonic activity, then they’ll get less out of their geothermal energy production than a nation in the Pacific Ring of Fire.
As time goes by, we’ll likely see an overall increase in the proportion of electricity that is created using geothermal energy. Renewable energy makes up about 11% of the energy consumed in the United States, but only 2% of that 11% is sourced from geothermal power plants.
This puts geothermal production behind, solar, wind, biofuel, wood, hydroelectricity, and biomass waste, making it the smallest contributor to renewable power in the US.
Geothermal Power by Country
As we mentioned, geography is a huge part of geothermal power’s effectiveness, and some countries rely on it much more than others. The country with the most substantial portion of their power sourced from geothermal plants is Kenya, with 51% of their electricity coming from it.
Other countries like Iceland, the Philippines, and El Salvador have more than a quarter of their power generated by geothermal plants. Comparatively, the USA generates only 0.3% of their electricity using geothermal energy, though they have the largest group of geothermal generators in the world at The Geysers, in California.
Despite this energy source making up such a small percentage of their overall power production, the US is the world’s largest generator of geothermal power. In 2018, the country generated nearly 3600 MW of power from their geothermal plants, with Indonesia in second place, at around 2000 MW.
New Zealand also makes extensive use of this power source, with geothermal energy taking up about 15% of their national production, and this figure is expected to rise even further in the future. One of the only countries located on the Pacific Ring of Fire that isn’t using geothermal energy is Canada, which is more reliant on hydroelectricity for renewable energy.
Geothermal power plants aren’t as complicated as they sound, and we hope that this article has helped you understand them better. As their number increases, these power plants can help us increase our reliance on renewable energy sources which are kinder to the environment.