Geothermal Power vs. Geothermal Heating
Geothermal power & geothermal heating and cooling are not the same thing, although they are often incorrectly interchanged.
Geothermal Power = Electricity & Power Plant
Uses extreme heat/steam from miles beneath the surface to rotate a turbine that generate electricity at a power plant.
Geothermal Heating & Cooling = Air Conditioning & Heat for Your Home
Uses dirt right under our feet to heat and cool homes and small buildings; no electricity is generated.
Geothermal power is often called geothermal energy because electricity is produced in the processes. You’ll hear about geothermal energy projects on the news which aim to produce so many Mega Watts of power - this is geothermal power NOT geothermal heating & cooling. It costs millions of dollars and takes years to build.
Geothermal heating and cooling is also referred to as ground source heating or geoexchange. This is what you would use at your own home to heat and cool your home. Plastic pipes are inserted into the ground anywhere from 6 to 300 feet. These pipes circulate water to transfer heat to and from the home. There is not electricity generated, there is no lava, there is no steam. It costs thousands and takes a day or two to install.
Geothermal power, as it were, is the process of generating electricity through geothermal energy. How is this done? Well, it's sort of like heating and cooling, actually. The process begins with testing - a lot of testing. Whether it's a few geologists, a team of engineers, or some combination of the two, along with others, a certain group of people spend a good chunk of time locating and procuring a location from which this energy can be derived. Where, though? Well, underground of course. What they're looking for, though, is not dirt, like in the case of heating and cooling. Instead, they're searching for underground cavities that are home to geothermal water. Once these cavities are located, a geothermal production well is drilled so that both steam and water can rise to the surface. It is this steam, this water, that is utilized to generate both geothermal power and electricity.
Much as a wind farm uses wind to power the turbines that generate electricity, a geothermal power plant utilizes steam, water, or pure heat to do the same. There are various types of geo power plants, including dry steam, flash, and binary. A dry steam power plant is, as you may have guessed, dependent upon steam power, while the latter two are dependent upon water reservoirs.
This is all well and good - but what are the advantages of geothermal power? First off, it's flat out better on the surrounding land. Geo power plants are significantly smaller than the average plant that uses alternative energy sources. Not to mention, it's incredibly clean. No fuels are burned. No waste is dumped into surrounding rivers and tributaries. Most importantly, nonrenewable fossil fuels are conserved to a much greater degree. Really, there are countless benefits - these are just a few.
To check out more benefits of geothermal energy, visit UCSUA.