Geothermal energy is the energy created when steam from the Earth’s core is used to power turbines that in turn generate electricity. The largest geothermal facility in the US is The Geysers, a complex of 22 power plants in northern California that can generate 1517 MW of geothermal power. Currently, geothermal energy produces less than 1% of the United States supply but new technologies are promising to increase that to as much as 10% by 2050. This new technology called Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) works much like the so called “fracking” that you have heard about in natural gas discussions, except instead of pumping a stew of toxic chemicals into the well, plain old water is added. The technology is relatively simple. Underground, the Earth can heat rocks to as much as 750 degrees Fahrenheit. By pumping water down the well into the rocks, steam is created that creates electricity. Historically, geothermal plants were situated near tectonically active areas that had naturally occurring steam. This new technology promises to increase the efficiency of existing geothermal plants as well as expand production to areas that are hot, but lack naturally occurring steam. In addition, researchers from Southern Methodist University, with help form Google.org, created a thermal map of the continental US that identifies new locations that were previously thought not to be suitable for geothermal energy. These new-found advances in geothermal technologies will definitely add a significant resource to our renewable energy portfolio. That is good news for all of us.
Below is a video about EGS and geothermal energy.