As the world looks for alternative environmentally-friendlier sources of energy, geothermal tops the list. However, there is growing concerns about what is the future of geothermal technologies lately.
Geothermal energy ordinarily comes fourth when it comes to the order of use worldwide. This is after solar, wind and hydro-electric power.
Looking into the future, however, geothermal energy is fast becoming a hot topic that will determine efficiency and cost-effective economic decisions of the future economies.
Currently, a whole lot of research is underway to determine how to harness geothermal energy using enhanced technologies.
Currently, the deepest geothermal plants do not go deeper than 120 meters. Scientists project that going deeper would result into more temperatures. The increase will just as much increase efficiency of the energy as the fossil fuels.
How it works
The geothermal energy sector has noticed a great deal of improvements over the past century. The first geothermal plant was drilled 100 years ago in Italy. Since then, the geothermal space has witnessed immense improvements that have reduced emissions and improved efficiency.
How geothermal plants work is they capture rising steam or hot water and use it to power an electric generator. Engineers have also come up with a new binary cycle technology which emits only 1/8 of greenhouse gases that which an ordinary coal mine would emit.
In the new technology, the binary cycle plants create a closed loop system which moves heated water through a heat exchanger that heats up another liquid, probably isobutane, that boils at lower temperatures compared to water. The hot water is then delivered underground, while the isobutane runs the generator.
Geothermal energy is also being pretty much affordable. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the cost of operating a geothermal plant has dropped by 50 per cent from the year 1980.
Similarly, it is projected that in the near future, geothermal energy will be much cheaper even less than the traditional fossil fuels.
Scientists are going for the long haul when it comes to harnessing geothermal energy. Norwegian scientists are even looking at the possibility of drilling 12,000 meters below the earth’s crust in order to get higher temperatures.
While at 5000 meters one can expect 194˚F, scientists are determined to reach more than double this. The latest figure is 10,000-12,000 meters. This would yield temperatures of up to 698˚F!
Challenges of the new technologies
As with every other technology, there is a trade-off with the geothermal advancements.
At those deep drilling lengths, geologists would find it nightmarish not only to survive in the heat but also for the electronic devices to be spared. Usually, the closer you get to the earth’s core, the hotter it gets.
But if the oil companies are already hitting the 10,000-12,000 meters, chances are workable solutions will be achieved.
For example, scientists are looking at the possibility of a closed loop system which involves a refrigerant being sent down the depths of the earth, then it comes back heated.
This is the future of geothermal energy
As the world strives to be energy efficient, geothermal is one area that is less exploited. But with the current proposed technologies like going deeper and improving tenacity of equipment, the future of geothermal energy is luminous.