How Does Geothermal Energy Work

Mon, Aug 24, 2009

Energy Types

The prices of fossil fuels and coal continue to climb, burdening small businesses with ever- higher costs of effectively and comfortably supplying energy to their buildings. Instead of guzzling harmful sources of energy, companies should consider going green and lifting much of the financial load off their shoulders by looking into alternative sources like geothermal power.

Geothermal Energy

Geothermal energy, a green source of energy developed from the heat of the earth’s core, has become more popular as businesses realize its potential for saving on heating and cooling expenses.

How It Works

  • The Idaho National Laboratory has devoted a comprehensive section of its website to the explanation of geothermal energy, and delves into three processes of extracting this energy (which initially comes in the form of steam from the earth’s core). Power plants build geothermal reservoirs in areas that support geothermal energy, and focus on using dry steam, flash steam, or the binary cycle to harness it.
  • Dry steam plants were the first type of geothermal power plants used; “they use steam from the geothermal reservoir as it comes from wells and route it directly through turbine/generator units to produce electricity.”
  • Flash steam plants, however, are the most common type of geothermal power generation plants, and they use scalding water (heated to temperatures greater than 360 degrees Fahrenheit) “that is pumped under high pressure to the generation equipment at the surface.” Once the pressure reaches this equipment, it decreases, and the hot water “flashes” into steam (which powers the turbine, and thus, the generator).
  • The binary cycle works differently from the other two types of plants; the water heats another fluid, which then vaporizes and comes in contact with the turbine.


  • As per www.our-energy.com ,”when it comes to efficiency geothermal energy is 48% more efficient than gas furnaces and even 75% more efficient than oil furnaces.”
  • When comparing the cost of heating a home with geothermal energy versus fossil fuels, geothermal tends to be less costly.


  • It can be hard to find a building location for a geothermal plant because of the need to extract the energy from so far in the ground.
  • Start-up costs are high.

How to Acquire it

  • Check out the U.S. Department of Energy’s “Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy” site to find information about installing a geothermal heat pump near your home here.
  • Do not worry about the temperature of your business ‘locale’; despite the air’s temperature, heat exists several feet below the soil’s surface, where the geothermal pump should be placed.
  • When installing a pump, look for the Energy Star label, which indicates that the pump’s producers are proud that their product works more than efficiently. Remember to install in an area with little rock and plenty of soil and groundwater, so there’s enough room and steam for the pump to work. In order to select an efficient pump, check out the Energy Star website here.
  • Despite the fact that startup costs are high-  installing a pump costs much more than installing a regular air conditioner – the additional costs are returned to you in energy savings in five to ten years.

By Fallon M. McCormick.

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