Geothermal Energy

What is geothermal energy?

Geothermal energy is under our feet in the form of high pressure high temperature hot water and steam that has been heated up by the earth’s core. Some of this super-heated water rises back to the surface of the earth where it emerges as hot springs or even geysers. Sometimes the hot water becomes trapped below the surface as a geothermal reservoir. It is a clean, green sustainable energy source and scientists estimate the earth’s total geothermal resources to amount to 50,000 times the energy content of all the world’s fossil fuels
One way of producing electricity from geothermal energy is by drilling wells into the geothermal reservoirs. The hot water that rises emerges at the surface as steam which can be used to drive turbines producing electricity. If the water is not hot enough to produce steam, it can still be used to heat homes and businesses. Other geothermal utilization methods include fish-farming, powering greenhouses, drying food and melting snow.
Geothermal energy utilization is a technically proven and financially feasible method of powering green communities that will have a great role to play in the world’s future fight against air pollution and global warming.

Benefits

Clean Green Energy Source
Besides supplying a plentiful, renewable, affordable supply of electricity and district heating, one of geothermal’s biggest benefits is its minimal effect on the environment.

Minimal CO2 Emissions
The carbon footprint of geothermal development is minimal when compared with fossil fuels and in a closed loop geothermal system, there are next to no CO2 emissions.

Fewer on site chemicals
Once wells start producing, naturally occurring scale in wells can be removed by acidizing techniques, thus greatly minimizing environmental exposure to pre-mixed chemicals.

Smaller footprint
Small area of land is needed for re-injection and production wells and generating stations are located right on site, resulting in less impact above and below the surface than other energy operations.

The Icelandic Model

Where does the geothermal experience in Iceland come from? To answer this question, it is necessary to look at the long history of energy utilization in Iceland. In 2008, the country celebrated 100 years of geothermal district heating. This long tradition of geothermal utilization for heating and later for electricity production that began in 1969 and has been continuous until today has helped Icelandic geologists, engineers and geothermal utilities to achieve necessary know-how and expertise in the geothermal energy sector through trial and error.

The Icelandic Experience

Iceland offers impressive statistics when it comes to renewable energy, as 82% of Iceland‘s primary energy consumption comes from renewable sources. In terms of electrical production, Iceland is 100% powered with renewable energy, geothermal energy (30%) and hydropower (70%). Nowhere else does geothermal energy play a greater role in a nation’s energy supply and overall prosperity.

Economical impact
From the earliest times, geothermal energy was used in Iceland for bathing and washing. Late in the 19th century, experiments began utilizing geothermal energy for outdoor gardening; and early in the 20th century geothermal sources were first used to heat greenhouses. Around the same time, people started using geothermal energy to heat swimming pools and buildings. The first district heating systems were developed in the first energy crisis post-WWI, and the energy crises of the 1970s pushed for further geothermal resource development and the generation of electricity from geothermal sources. In 2009, the National Energy Authority reported that Icelanders have saved ISK 880 billion (USD 7.2 billion) through geothermal heating since 1970, assuming a two percent real yield. Today, around 90% of Iceland’s substantial heating needs are met with geothermal resources.

Power Generation
The power generation development from geothermal sources progressed slowly until 1997 when it increased tenfold until 2007 and by the end of 2008, 575 MW were powered with geothermal energy. The successful utilization of renewable energy sources contributes substantially to clean environment and high quality of life in the country.
Rising oil and gas costs do not affect energy prices in Iceland, which are unsubsidized and amongst the lowest in the world for electricity and heating. Savings in using geothermal energy for heating alone, instead of other forms of energy that would have to be imported, is estimated at USD 460 million per year for Iceland’s tiny economy, leaving aside that geothermal energy is also environmentally friendly.
Researchers and consultants are regarded as experts in assessing the energy-capacity potential of both high- and low-temperature geothermal fields, in exploration and drilling techniques, as well as in all other aspects of geothermal energy utilization. They come prepared and willing to contribute to the world’s climate solution.