Geothermal Guide to Green Energy Production

Earth Day offerings range from local trash collection events to energy awareness campaigns. The Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) is honoring Earth Day this year with education for the masses in the Guide to Geothermal Energy and the Environment.

One of the largest sources of pollution is energy production and use. Fossil fuel combustion, for example, produces more air pollution than any other single source, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The GEA released the latest version of their guide to help the public understand how geothermal energy can contribute to a better future. The new guide updates information available on geothermal energy for a wide range of environmental issues, but electricity production in particular. It uses pictures, graphs and charts that help to place the potential benefits of expanded geothermal energy use in perspective. Efforts in the Western states to encourage new, clean sources of electricity and Congress’ expansion last year of the federal production tax credit (PTC) to include geothermal energy have spurred significant new interest in geothermal power development, according to GEA. New geothermal power projects are being pursued in numerous western states including Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, and Utah. With continued support and advances in technology, geothermal power could potentially provide energy across the entire U.S. “The first U.S. geothermal power plant, opened at The Geysers in California in 1960, continues to operate successfully,” the GEA stated in the guide. “The United States, as the world’s largest producer of geothermal electricity, generates an average of 15 billion kilowatt hours of power per year, comparable to burning close to 25 million barrels of oil or 6 million short tons of coal per year.” Geothermal energy isn’t dependant on the weather for power production, the GEA states. The Earth’s heat will be available indefinitely for applications such as geoexchange systems to help heat and cool buildings. What is an important concern at any site is proper water management. How much water a geothermal plant uses isn’t much of an issue. A coal facility uses approximately 361 gallons per megawatt hour, while a geothermal plants uses 5 gallons of freshwater per megawatt hour. How to keep the freshwater from becoming contaminated is the large concern. Conductive fluids used at a geothermal source that produces electricity is injected back into geothermal reservoirs using wells with thick casing to prevent cross-contamination of brines with groundwater systems. The brines are not released into surface waterways. At The Geysers facility, 11 million gallons of treated wastewater from Santa Rosa are pumped daily for injection into the geothermal reservoir. Injection reduces surface water pollution and increases geothermal reservoir resilience When it comes to the environmental benefits of using geothermal for power production, the majority of emissions from a geothermal source are water vapor. A coal plant with scrubbers and other emissions control technologies can emit 24 times more carbon dioxide, 10,837 times more sulfur dioxide, and 3,865 times more nitrous oxides per megawatt hour than a geothermal steam plant, according to the GEA. As an Earth Day special, people can download a free copy of the nearly 100-page Guide from GEA’s web site on Friday, April 22, only. Visit the link below.

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