Alternative Energy The Uses of Geothermal Energy: Greenhouse

Published on October 22nd, 2007 | by Scott Cooney

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The Uses of Geothermal Energy

The uses of geothermal energy in homes, farming, industry, infrastructure, and electricity.

The Uses of Geothermal Energy

Geothermal energy has more uses than you might imagine.  Basically, geothermal energy technology taps into subsurface areas where desired temperatures exist. The uses of geothermal energy range depending on the needs.

Uses of Geothermal Energy for Houses

If you’re looking to cool your home in the summer, for example, one of the uses of geothermal energy technologies is to allow you in hot times to take heat from your house, send it down pipes into the ground (where it naturally cools), and return it to your house (where it helps bring down the temperature inside). The technology typically uses a liquid like antifreeze as a carrier of that heat, which is moved about in a closed-loop piping system.

One of the other main uses of geothermal energy is the same concept but in reverse in cold months. Geothermal energy technology is used to bring warmer temperatures into your home without using fossil fuels, just by tapping into a heat exchange deep below the surface of the earth. Cool, right? But geothermal energy is so much more.

Uses of Geothermal Energy in Farming

Some of the common uses of geothermal energy are amongst farmers, who use geothermal energy to heat their greenhouses. Check this out (lemons grown in the middle of winter!):

The Uses of Geothermal Energy: Growing Food Year-Round

In Tuscany, Italy, farmers have used water heated by geothermal energy for hundreds of years to grow vegetables in the winter.  Hungary is also a major user of geothermal energy, where eighty percent of the energy demand from vegetables growers is met using geothermal energy technology.

Geothermal energy is also used in fish farms.

The Uses of Geothermal Energy: Fish Farming

The steam escaping is evidence of geothermal heat that is being used to keep fish farms’ water temperatures warm, even with glaciers right there in the background!

The warm water spurs the growth of animals ranging from alligators, shellfish, tropical fish, amphibians to catfish and trout. Fish farmers from Oregon, Idaho, China, Japan, and even Iceland use geothermal energy.

Uses of Geothermal Energy in Industry

Industry is another consumer of geothermal energy. Its uses vary from drying fruits, drying vegetables, drying wood, and dying wool to extracting gold and silver from ore. Check out this cool graphic from the state of California’s energy almanac for the varying temperatures needed for a variety of industrial geothermal energy uses.

The Uses of Geothermal Energy in Industry via Geothermal Education Office and the Geo-Heat Center

Uses of Geothermal Energy in Infrastructure & Electricity

Geothermal energy is also used to heat sidewalks and roads in order to prevent freezing in the winter. Most recently, the Netherlands began using geothermal energy to keep bike lanes from freezing in the wintertime, for instance.

The Uses of Geothermal Energy: Heated Bike Lanes

These bike lanes are heated with geothermal energy!

 

Geothermal power plants are also a good electricity generator:

  • Flashed Steam Plants — The water “flash” boils and the steam is used to turn turbines.
  • Dry Steam Plants — These plants rely on the natural steam that comes from the underground reservoirs to generate electricity.
  • Binary Power Plants — These plants use the water to heat a “secondary liquid” which vaporizes and turns the turbines. The vaporized liquid is then condensed and reused.
  • Hybrid Power Plants — In these plants, binary and flash techniques are utilized simultaneously.

It’s been estimated that the economic benefit of geothermal energy to the U.S. is about $280 million per year. It serves as a great source of renewable, baseload power for many parts of the U.S. But the potential for geothermal still exists, untapped, in a lot of areas. At last count, 450 geothermal projects were under development, so people are obviously catching on.

The most common use of geothermal energy is for heating residential districts and businesses. The first U.S. district to use geothermal energy for heating dates back to 1893. However, the French beat us by almost 500 years, as records indicate they were tapping many uses of geothermal energy back in the 15th century.

Images from Shutterstock, Flickr Creative Commons, Gaci.biz, NewEnergyandFuel, and TheAtlanticCities

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About the Author

Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, green business startup coach, author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and developer of the sustainability board game GBO Hawai'i. Scott has started, grown and sold two mission-driven businesses, failed miserably at a third, and is currently in his fourth. Scott's current company has three divisions: a sustainability blog network that includes the world's biggest clean energy website and reached over 5 million readers in December 2013 alone; Pono Home, a turnkey and franchiseable green home consulting service that won entrance into the clean tech incubator known as Energy Excelerator; and Cost of Solar, a solar lead generation service to connect interested homeowners and solar contractors. In his spare time, Scott surfs, plays ultimate frisbee and enjoys a good, long bike ride. Find Scott on



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