There is much talk about climate change, and the search for viable renewable energy sources. Everyone knows about the likes of solar, wind and wave power. But fewer have heard of geothermal, or know how geothermal energy works. So here are some geothermal energy facts, which may help you understand the benefits and restrictions of geothermal energy.
How Does Geothermal Energy Work
The principle of this form of energy is quite simple. The ground beneath our feet gets heated by the sun on a daily basis. However, it is also a great insulator, and so retains a vast amount of this heat as stored energy. The idea is that pipes are run through a fairly large area of ground several feet down, where the temperature is more constant. Then, water is passed through the pipes, heating it.
The primary use for this type of energy is heating, as a regulated temperature can be achieved constantly with little variation dependent on time of year. It can also be used over larger areas to provide hot water, but this needs more time in the ground so more pipe work and a greater area.
Geothermal Energy Pros and Cons
The advantages of geothermal energy are that once the initial investment is paid for, energy is relatively free. And it’s clean. There is little or no reliance on power from gas or electricity to provide heat, which is one of the main uses of energy in the home. The main need for electricity to run this system is for pumps to pump the water through the system. The advantages of geothermal energy are that it is cheap, once the ground works are done, and incredibly green energy. There are no emissions from the provision of heat for the home and water.
The disadvantages of geothermal energy are the initial expense and the amount of land required. It can cost thousands to dig out the land and lay the pipes. This is one of the geothermal energy problems and why it is not widely used. Another of the disadvantages about geothermal energy is that it requires a fair sized piece of land to implement. People with a fair-sized garden will be ok, but it is not possible to install in the yard of a Victorian terrace.
One possibility that some people use is a new system where pilings are drilled into the ground, with the pipe work in the foundations. Because pilings go much deeper into the ground, they gain the distance that is required underground to heat the water. This is great for newly build homes, but obviously cannot be achieved in older homes.
How Many People Use Geothermal Energy
Because of the initial costs and need for space, geothermal energy is not widely used. It is becoming more popular in single builds, however, and could provide an efficient method for providing heat for buildings such as apartments and newly built housing estates through district heating systems or individual heating through pipes in the pilings. Because it is so expensive, it is unlikely that house building companies will install the systems in homes in the near future. But hopefully it could become the way we provide all our heat energy needs in the future.
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