NesjavellirPowerPlant edit2

Steam rising from the Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Station in Iceland.

Geothermal power (from the Greek roots geo, meaning earth, and thermos, meaning heat) is power extracted from heat stored in the earth. This geothermal energy originates from the original formation of the planet, from radioactive decay of minerals, and from solar energy absorbed at the surface. It has been used for bathing since Paleolithic times and for space heating since ancient Roman times, but is now better known for generating electricity. Worldwide, about 10,715 megawatts (MW) of geothermal power is online in 24 countries. An additional 28 gigawatts of direct geothermal heating capacity is installed for district heating, space heating, spas, industrial processes, desalination and agricultural applications.[citation needed]

Geothermal power is cost effective, reliable, sustainable, and environmentally friendly, but has historically been limited to areas near tectonic plate boundaries. Recent technological advances have dramatically expanded the range and size of viable resources, especially for applications such as home heating, opening a potential for widespread exploitation. Geothermal wells release greenhouse gases trapped deep within the earth, but these emissions are much lower per energy unit than those of fossil fuels. As a result, geothermal power has the potential to help mitigate global warming if widely deployed in place of fossil fuels.

The Earth's geothermal resources are theoretically more than adequate to supply humanity's energy needs, but only a very small fraction may be profitably exploited. Drilling and exploration for deep resources is very expensive.[citation needed] Forecasts for the future of geothermal power depend on assumptions about technology, energy prices, subsidies, and interest rates.

Electricity Edit

File:Geothermal hotspots.JPG
Main article: Geothermal electricity

The International Geothermal Association (IGA) has reported that 10,715 megawatts (MW) of geothermal power in 24 countries is online, which is expected to generate 67,246 GWh of electricity in 2010.[1] This represents a 20% increase in online capacity since 2005. IGA projects growth to 18,500 MW by 2015, due to the projects presently under consideration, often in areas previously assumed to have little exploitable resource.[1]

In 2010, the United States led the world in geothermal electricity production with 3,086 MW of installed capacity from 77 power plants.[2] The largest group of geothermal power plants in the world is located at The Geysers, a geothermal field in California.[3] The Philippines is the second highest producer, with 1,904 MW of capacity online. Geothermal power makes up approximately 18% of the country's electricity generation.[2]

Geothermal electric plants were traditionally built exclusively on the edges of tectonic plates where high temperature geothermal resources are available near the surface. The development of binary cycle power plants and improvements in drilling and extraction technology enable enhanced geothermal systems over a much greater geographical range.[4] Demonstration projects are operational in Landau-Pfalz, Germany, and Soultz-sous-Forêts, France, while an earlier effort in Basel, Switzerland was shut down after it triggered earthquakes. Other demonstration projects are under construction in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.[5]

The thermal efficiency of geothermal electric plants is low, around 10-23%, because geothermal fluids do not reach the high temperatures of steam from boilers. The laws of thermodynamics limits the efficiency of heat engines in extracting useful energy. Exhaust heat is wasted, unless it can be used directly and locally, for example in greenhouses, timber mills, and district heating. System efficiency does not materially affect operational costs as it would for plants that use fuel, but it does affect return on the capital used to build the plant. In order to produce more energy than the pumps consume, electricity generation requires relatively hot fields and specialized heat cycles.[citation needed] Because geothermal power does not rely on variable sources of energy, unlike, for example, wind or solar, its capacity factor can be quite large – up to 96% has been demonstrated.[6] The global average was 73% in 2005.

Direct application Edit

Main article: Geothermal heating

In the geothermal industry, low temperature means temperatures of 300 °F (149 °C) or less. Low-temperature geothermal resources are typically used in direct-use applications, such as district heating, greenhouses, fisheries, mineral recovery, and industrial process heating. However, some low-temperature resources can generate electricity using binary cycle electricity generating technology.[7]

Approximately 70 countries made direct use of 270 petajoules (PJ) of geothermal heating in 2004. More than half went for space heating, and another third for heated pools. The remainder supported industrial and agricultural applications. Global installed capacity was 28 GW, but capacity factors tend to be low (30% on average) since heat is mostly needed in winter. The above figures are dominated by 88 PJ of space heating extracted by an estimated 1.3 million geothermal heat pumps with a total capacity of 15 GW.[8] Heat pumps for home heating are the fastest-growing means of exploiting geothermal energy, with a global annual growth rate of 30% in energy production.[9]

Direct heating is far more efficient than electricity generation and places less demanding temperature requirements on the heat resource. Heat may come from co-generation via a geothermal electrical plant or from smaller wells or heat exchangers buried in shallow ground. As a result, geothermal heating is economic at many more sites than geothermal electricity generation. Where natural hot springs are available, the heated water can be piped directly into radiators. If the ground is hot but dry, earth tubes or downhole heat exchangers can collect the heat. But even in areas where the ground is colder than room temperature, heat can still be extracted with a geothermal heat pump more cost-effectively and cleanly than by conventional furnaces.[10] These devices draw on much shallower and colder resources than traditional geothermal techniques, and they frequently combine a variety of functions, including air conditioning, seasonal energy storage, solar energy collection, and electric heating. Geothermal heat pumps can be used for space heating essentially anywhere.

Geothermal heat supports many applications. District heating applications use networks of piped hot water to heat many buildings across entire communities. In Reykjavík, Iceland, spent water from the district heating system is piped below pavement and sidewalks to melt snow.[11] Geothermal desalination has been demonstrated.

Environmental impact Edit

Puhagan geothermal plant

Geothermal power station in the Philippines

Krafla Geothermal Station

Krafla Geothermal Station in northeast Iceland

Fluids drawn from the deep earth carry a mixture of gases, notably carbon dioxide (CO2), hydrogen sulfide (Template:Chem/20), methane (CH4) and ammonia (NH3). These pollutants contribute to global warming, acid rain, and noxious smells if released. Existing geothermal electric plants emit an average of Template:Kg to lb of CO2 per megawatt-hour (MW·h) of electricity, a small fraction of the emission intensity of conventional fossil fuel plants.[12] Plants that experience high levels of acids and volatile chemicals are usually equipped with emission-control systems to reduce the exhaust.

In addition to dissolved gases, hot water from geothermal sources may hold in solution trace amounts of toxic chemicals such as mercury, arsenic, boron, antimony, and salt.[13] These chemicals precipitate as the water cools, and can cause environmental damage if released. The modern practice of injecting cooled geothermal fluids back into the Earth to stimulate production has the side benefit of reducing this environmental risk.

Direct geothermal heating systems contain pumps and compressors, which may consume energy from a polluting source. This parasitic load is normally a fraction of the heat output, so it is always less polluting than electric heating. However, if the electricity is produced by burning fossil fuels, then the net emissions of geothermal heating may be comparable to directly burning the fuel for heat. For example, a geothermal heat pump powered by electricity from a combined cycle natural gas plant would produce about as much pollution as a natural gas condensing furnace of the same size.[10] Therefore the environmental value of direct geothermal heating applications is highly dependent on the emissions intensity of the neighboring electric grid.

Plant construction can adversely affect land stability. Subsidence has occurred in the Wairakei field in New Zealand[14] and in Staufen im Breisgau, Germany.[15] Enhanced geothermal systems can trigger earthquakes as part of hydraulic fracturing. The project in Basel, Switzerland was suspended because more than 10,000 seismic events measuring up to 3.4 on the Richter Scale occurred over the first 6 days of water injection.[16]

Geothermal has minimal land and freshwater requirements. Geothermal plants use 3.5 square kilometres (1.4 sq mi) per gigawatt of electrical production (not capacity) versus 32 and 12 square kilometres (4.6 sq mi) for coal facilities and wind farms respectively.[14] They use 20 litres (Template:Convert/usgal) of freshwater per MW·h versus over 1,000 litres (Template:Convert/usgal) per MW·h for nuclear, coal, or oil.[14]

Economics Edit

Geothermal power requires no fuel (except for pumps), and is therefore immune to fuel cost fluctuations, but capital costs are significant. Drilling accounts for over half the costs, and exploration of deep resources entails significant risks. A typical well doublet (extraction and injection wells) in Nevada can support 4.5 megawatts (MW) and costs about $10 million to drill, with a 20% failure rate.[17]

In total, electrical plant construction and well drilling cost about 2-5 million € per MW of electrical capacity, while the break–even price is 0.04-0.10 € per kW·h.[18] Enhanced geothermal systems tend to be on the high side of these ranges, with capital costs above $4 million per MW and break–even above $0.054 per kW·h in 2007.[19] Direct heating applications can use much shallower wells with lower temperatures, so smaller systems with lower costs and risks are feasible. Residential geothermal heat pumps with a capacity of 10 kilowatt (kW) are routinely installed for around $1–3,000 per kilowatt. District heating systems may benefit from economies of scale if demand is geographically dense, as in cities, but otherwise piping installation dominates capital costs. The capital cost of one such district heating system in Bavaria was estimated at somewhat over 1 million € per MW.[20] Direct systems of any size are much simpler than electric generators and have lower maintenance costs per kW·h, but they must consume electricity to run pumps and compressors. Some governments subsidize geothermal projects.

Geothermal power is highly scalable: from a rural village to an entire city.[21]

Chevron Corporation is the world's largest private geothermal electricity producer.[22] The most developed geothermal field is the Geysers in California.

Resources Edit

EGS diagram

Enhanced geothermal system 1:Reservoir 2:Pump house 3:Heat exchanger 4:Turbine hall 5:Production well 6:Injection well 7:Hot water to district heating 8:Porous sediments 9:Observation well 10:Crystalline bedrock

The Earth's internal heat naturally flows to the surface by conduction at a rate of 44.2 terawatts, (TW,)[23] and is replenished by radioactive decay of minerals at a rate of 30 TW.[24] These power rates are more than double humanity’s current energy consumption from all primary sources, but most of it is not recoverable. In addition to heat emanating from deep within the Earth, the top Template:M to ft of the ground accumulates solar energy (warms up) during the summer, and releases that energy (cools down) during the winter.

Beneath the seasonal variations, the geothermal gradient of temperatures through the crust is 25–30 °C (77–86 °F) per kilometer of depth in most of the world. The conductive heat flux is approximately 0.1 MW/km2 on average. These values are much higher near tectonic plate boundaries where the crust is thinner. They may be further augmented by fluid circulation, either through magma conduits, hot springs, hydrothermal circulation or a combination of these.

A geothermal heat pump can extract enough heat from shallow ground anywhere in the world to provide home heating, but industrial applications need the higher temperatures of deep resources.[14] The thermal efficiency and profitability of electricity generation is particularly sensitive to temperature. The more demanding applications receive the greatest benefit from a high natural heat flux, ideally from using a hot spring. The next best option is to drill a well into a hot aquifer. If no adequate aquifer is available, an artificial one may be built by injecting water to hydraulically fracture the bedrock. This last approach is called hot dry rock geothermal energy in Europe, or enhanced geothermal systems in North America. Much greater potential may be available from this approach than from conventional tapping of natural aquifers.[4]

Estimates of the electricity generating potential of geothermal energy vary six–fold, from .035-2 TW depending on the scale of investments.[8] Upper estimates of geothermal resources assume enhanced geothermal wells as deep as 10 kilometres (6 mi), whereas existing geothermal wells are rarely more than 3 kilometres (2 mi) deep.[8] Wells of this depth are now common in the petroleum industry. The deepest research well in the world, the Kola superdeep borehole, is 12 kilometres (7 mi) deep.[25] This record has recently been imitated by commercial oil wells, such as Exxon's Z-12 well in theChayvo field, Sakhalin.[26]

Sustainability Edit

Geothermal power is considered to be sustainable because any projected heat extraction is small compared to the Earth's heat content. The Earth has an internal heat content of 1031 joules (3·1015 TW·hr).[8] About 20% of this is residual heat from planetary accretion, and the remainder is attributed to higher radioactive decay rates that existed in the past.[27] Natural heat flows are not in equilibrium, and the planet is slowly cooling down on geologic timescales. Human extraction taps a minute fraction of the natural outflow, often without accelerating it.

Even though geothermal power is globally sustainable, extraction must still be monitored to avoid local depletion.[24] Over the course of decades, individual wells draw down local temperatures and water levels until a new equilibrium is reached with natural flows. The three oldest sites, at Larderello, Wairakei, and the Geysers have experienced reduced output because of local depletion. Heat and water, in uncertain proportions, were extracted faster than they were replenished. If production is reduced and water is reinjected, these wells could theoretically recover their full potential. Such mitigation strategies have already been implemented at some sites. The long-term sustainability of geothermal energy has been demonstrated at the Lardarello field in Italy since 1913, at the Wairakei field in New Zealand since 1958,[28] and at The Geysers field in California since 1960.[29]

The extinction of several geyser fields has also been attributed to geothermal power development[30]

History Edit

Oldest geothermal

The oldest known pool fed by a hot spring, built in the Qin dynasty in the 3rd century BC.

Hot springs have been used for bathing at least since paleolithic times.[31] The oldest known spa is a stone pool on China’s Lisan mountain built in the Qin dynasty in the 3rd century BC, at the same site where the Huaqing Chi palace was later built. In the first century AD, Romans conquered Aquae Sulis, now Bath, Somerset, England, and used the hot springs there to feed public baths and underfloor heating. The admission fees for these baths probably represent the first commercial use of geothermal power. The world's oldest geothermal district heating system in Chaudes-Aigues, France, has been operating since the 14th century.[14] The earliest industrial exploitation began in 1827 with the use of geyser steam to extract boric acid from volcanic mud in Larderello, Italy.

In 1892, America's first district heating system in Boise, Idaho was powered directly by geothermal energy, and was copied in Klamath Falls, Oregon in 1900. A deep geothermal well was used to heat greenhouses in Boise in 1926, and geysers were used to heat greenhouses in Iceland and Tuscany at about the same time.[32] Charlie Lieb developed the first downhole heat exchanger in 1930 to heat his house. Steam and hot water from geysers began heating homes in Iceland starting in 1943.

Geothermal capacity

Global geothermal electric capacity. Upper red line is installed capacity;[18] lower green line is realized production.[8]

In the 20th century, demand for electricity led to the consideration of geothermal power as a generating source. Prince Piero Ginori Conti tested the first geothermal power generator on 4 July 1904, at the same Larderello dry steam field where geothermal acid extraction began. It successfully lit four light bulbs.[33] Later, in 1911, the world's first commercial geothermal power plant was built there. It was the world's only industrial producer of geothermal electricity until New Zealand built a plant in 1958.

By this time, Lord Kelvin had already invented the heat pump in 1852, and Heinrich Zoelly had patented the idea of using it to draw heat from the ground in 1912.[34] But it was not until the late 1940s that the geothermal heat pump was successfully implemented. The earliest one was probably Robert C. Webber's home-made 2.2 kW direct-exchange system, but sources disagree as to the exact timeline of his invention.[34] J. Donald Kroeker designed the first commercial geothermal heat pump to heat the Commonwealth Building (Portland, Oregon) and demonstrated it in 1946.[35][36] Professor Carl Nielsen of Ohio State University built the first residential open loop version in his home in 1948.[37] The technology became popular in Sweden as a result of the 1973 oil crisis, and has been growing slowly in worldwide acceptance since then. The 1979 development of polybutylene pipe greatly augmented the heat pump’s economic viability.[35]

In 1960, Pacific Gas and Electric began operation of the first successful geothermal electric power plant in the United States at The Geysers in California.[38] The original turbine lasted for more than 30 years and produced 11 MW net power.[39]

The binary cycle power plant was first demonstrated in 1967 in the U.S.S.R. and later introduced to the U.S. in 1981.[38] This technology allows the generation of electricity from much lower temperature resources than previously. In 2006, a binary cycle plant in Chena Hot Springs, Alaska, came on-line, producing electricity from a record low fluid temperature of 57 °C (135 °F).[40]

References Edit

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