Since 1904, physicists have grappled with the question of what is geothermal, specifically its relation to the betterment of mankind. That was the year Larderello, Italy, debuted the first geothermal power plant.
That said, the use of geothermal energy goes back thousands of years and spans a variety of cultures. But is it viable in our current world?
In the following article, we’ll be discussing the question of what is geothermal energy, talking about its renewability, and examining what we can glean from it as a society. Let’s begin.
Geothermal Energy Defined
We’ve discussed how geothermal works in a previous post. We strongly recommend checking out that primer if you don’t already have a strong grasp on the basics.
In simple terms, geothermal energy is simply the heat that’s generated from the interior of the earth. What’s particularly remarkable about this type of energy is that it emanates from a core that’s around the same heat as the sun (about 5,500 degrees Celsius or just under 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit).
Early civilizations used geothermal energy for everything from cooking to medicine. But it wasn’t until Italian Prince Piero Ginori Conti demonstrated its effectiveness through that aforementioned first plant that we started thinking about it as an industrialized energy source.
What Is Geothermal Energy Tech, and Where Is It Heading?
The first geothermal power plant used dry steam to prove its validity. Vapor-based is still a popular form of extraction. In fact, the Larderello plant is even still in operation.
But since that time, liquid-dominated reservoirs (or LDRs) have gone online as well. Other plant types include thermal energy plants that pump water directly from the reservoir and enhanced geothermal, which introduces water from an outside source into the geothermal well for heating. It is then pumped back out for use.
Why Is Renewable Energy Important?
Regardless of type, technology has become practical enough to use geothermal for everyday applications like plumbing and heating. Coupled with the right hardware, geothermal energy can produce significant returns on energy efficiency with some estimates placing the output to input ratio at around 5 to 1.
That is, five units of energy are created for each one used. A large part of what makes geothermal so energy-efficient is that it’s renewable. And in the next section, we’ll be discussing how that works.
Is Geothermal Energy Renewable?
So yes, geothermal energy is renewable. As a society, we don’t have to do anything to “create” it. The earth takes care of that part itself.
Our challenge comes in harnessing it for widespread application. And we’ve come a long way since 1904 with growing plants online in 24 countries per the International Geothermal Association.
Where It Goes from Here
Moving forward, defining what is geothermal is important in relation to how it will affect our energy usage across the globe. The renewable nature of geothermal gives countries a viable tool to fight climate change, but only if we embrace the appropriate research and legislative steps to get it to scale.
We’ll have to work together to make it possible. If you’d like to know more about how you can help these and other efforts, check out our previous tips for going green.