Not many know that relaxing in a natural hot spring to relieve stress is the key to the world’s future in relieving energy and environmental problems. Once this resource’s full potential is unlocked, it would just like “Old Faithful”: reliable, natural and “faithful” in continuously sustaining life and saving other natural resources. This is called Geothermal Energy, power harnessed from the heat (thermos) kept in the earth (geo) as well as the degradation of radioactive minerals. This stored energy is captured by a system of pipe and conduits that properly channel heat and steam to power turbines or simply just radiate warm temperatures.
Evidence of geothermal energy already integrated into daily living can be seen in countries such as Europe, Asia, Latin America and the Unites States. Direct-Used Piped hot water is utilized to heat buildings during cold seasons and provide warmth in greenhouses. Dehydration of produce, pasteurization of milk and even fish farms are benefitting from the resources. Pipes are also installed under roads to facilitate in the hastening of ice and snow melting.
Geothermal Heat Pumps uses the heat of shallow ground to cool or heat up buildings and homes depending on the season. With the design of pipes in the ground, ducts and air exchangers, hot air can be pulled out to give a cooler temperature or let in to increase it.
Providing natural heat is one thing however producing electricity to drive most of our present day technology is another matter. This is where experts in various fields come together in designing, building, and operating a Geothermal Reservoir. Wells more than a mile are drilled and steam and hot water are used to drive powerful turbines to generate electricity. Three types of geothermal plants are utilized today: Dry steam plants use hot steam greater than 455 F wherein the steam travels to turbines via pipes hence generating electricity. This type has been first used in Lardarello, Italy 1904. Another are the Flash Steam Plants where hot water, at greater than 360 F is released from a pressurized reservoir and the sudden change of temperature vaporizes the water to steam, spinning the turbine. Third is the Binary Cycle Power Plant that uses hot geothermal fluid less than 400 F and a secondary low boiling point fluid that passes through a heat exchanger and vaporizing the secondary fluid.
The mechanics of geothermal energy for producing electricity requires the technology and knowledge of hot springs, deep oil and water well drilling, construction and maintenance of magma conduits and hydrothermal machineries among others. With all these vital areas, various expertises are required thus providing career opportunities to many. Welders, mechanics, pipe fitters, plumbers, machinists, electricians, carpenters, construction workers, drilling equipment operators and excavators, surveyors, architects, geologists, hydrologists, HVAC technologists, managers, regulatory and environment consultants and many more that reach positions in research and development.
Internationally the world’s geothermal sources have increased between the years 1990 to 2000 with an average of 3.5% every year and a 13% percent increase of Direct Use as well. At present the United States is the leader in the geothermal growth as in 2007 it contributed to 4% of the countries renewable energy. As of September 2009, Alaska, Idaho, Hawaii, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming are generating power through geothermal reservoirs and by October 2009, Oregon, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi will soon be joining as well. A total of 3152.72 installed capacity MW comes from the U.S with the Philippines following second with 1909 which was attained last year 2008.
It is said that every dollar invested in this resource, the output to the economy is $2.50. The investment for a 50 Megawatt reservoir would result in an output of $350 Million to the US economy hence a 1000 Megawatt; $2.8 Billion investment would give a $7 Billion economic output.
Once geothermal power is secured and its system properly in place with the economy, jobs would be more secured as shown by employees currently working for the industry for decades. Without the price fluctuating like oil and gas, job stability is more or less guaranteed as well as room for moving up in the industry. Even the industry when near perfection, will require very little or no fuel at all to operate. Due to misinformation, many still are skeptical with its environmental implications. Even the sight of smoke automatically says “pollution”. But the smoke that is seen is just water vapor and is released and some of it keeps generating more power. It is safe to know that with proper emission control, no harm comes to the environment. With the future looking bright, all may enjoy the luxury of relaxing in their own private hot springs.