By Deeptanshu Singhvi
Scarcity of resources has always governed the decisions of the human race, even when life was at its most primitive stage. As oil has grown scarcer, governments across the world have been incentivized to start up new projects. Eternal energy is a prime goal and geothermal breakthroughs may help achieve this goal. In fact, global emissions of carbon dioxide have been the highest ever in 2012, and the threat of climate change is becoming imminent.
When tracing back geothermal energy through human history, one can easily spot how geothermal energy has been used in the art of cooking. In layman’s terms, geothermal energy is the concept behind extracting energy from beneath the earth’s crusts. Stored within the crust of the earth are huge amounts of thermal energy or heat energy, which can be used to power and supply much of the electricity we require today.
In light of current systems that create geothermal energy, there are three crucial processes: these methods include dry steam, flash, and binary technology. Dry steam, the oldest geothermal technology, takes steam out of fractures in the ground and uses it to directly drive a turbine. Flash plants take high-pressure hot water into colder, low-pressure water. Responding to the change in environment, the steam generated from this process is used to drive the turbine. A report by National Geographic assessed that, “In binary plants, the hot water is turned to vapor, which then drives a turbine. Most geothermal power plants in the future will be binary plants.”
On the international context, more than 20 countries worldwide are currently utilizing some form of geothermal energy. In the rankings, the United States comes out on the top with the title of producing the most geothermal energy. However, deeper dissection within the statistical analysis reveals that this is more luck than technique: the largest geothermal production is caused by the geysers in Yellowstone National Park.
Theoretically, the concept behind geothermal energy involves a very low risk atmosphere. On the contrary, after implementation, it has been observed that excessive production of geothermal energy can be linked to the release of hydrogen sulfide, a toxic gas, which can have disastrous consequences if excessively inhaled. Furthermore, numerous petitions have been signed to minimize geothermal energy extractions. The threat of drilling too deep into the surface of earth prompts great caution. In fact, a project by Seattle-based AltaRock Energy, would have fractured bedrock and extracted heat by digging more than two miles beneath the surface. Documents provided to the New York Times revealed that the project had been unsuccessful on numerous accounts, ultimately putting the corporation in debt of about 6 million dollars. To further the possible risk of damage, a letter addressed by Cathy Zoi, an assistant energy secretary, explained that, “the AltaRock project would have a significant impact on the human environment.”
Despite the serious drawbacks that have been found within Geothermal Energy, Obama has invested 359 million dollars in an Oregon Project to oversee whether the harms have any merit. If they do, the president seeks to find quick solutions so there is another source of alternative energy available for corporations to use. Astoundingly, the results have been positive. Ernie Majer, a seismologist and deputy director of the Earth Science Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, said that the new standards were a welcome development. The letters show that the department “is being ultra-careful about any induced seismicity,” he said, referring to earthquakes triggered by humans. On a more detailed analysis, there have been regulations to monitor ground movement. Preventative measures are necessary for the development of Geothermal energy.
To make the transition between fossil fuel related energy and renewable energy, a whole new level of bureaucracy has been established. This governmental action will help reduce the chance of any risk while at the same time act as a temporary solution to meet the rising demand for energy. Some experts say we might have hit peak oil – scarcity is forcing humans to make geothermal energy a feasible avenue.