Everyone has heard of solar and wind technology by now. But it does not ordinarily occur to people that they are standing on top of an immense core full of another form of power. It is a privilege to see hot lava slowly oozing its way to the ocean in areas where one can do so safely – such as in Hawaii. Steam rises from the hot crust and the red glow of the molten rock reminds onlookers what may be rolling around only a few meters underneath the cooled crust they are standing on. Lava is the molten rock that has made its way through a weaker area of the earth’s crust, but just 7 miles under our feet – no matter where you are – is where the outer mantle of the earth begins and where temperatures rise to 2500 degrees Fahrenheit. Geothermal technologies use heat found in some shallower areas where the temperature is much lower and safer to work with – ranging between 100-300 degrees Fahrenheit.
Vulcan Power Company (“Vulcan”) is focused on developing geothermal power plants. According to their website, it is estimated that Vulcan properties will supply sufficient electricity for up to 2 million Americans. Thinking at a larger scale; Geothermal power can provide electricity for 15% of the world’s population!
Geothermal energy comes primarily in the form of heat or steam and is mostly available in the Western part of the U.S, Alaska and Hawaii. There are many benefits to using geothermal power. Vulcan explains this in their website: “When properly developed and monitored, geothermal steam resources are renewable. Cooler fluids exiting power plants are reinjected and reheated in subsurface reservoirs on a sustainable basis. Modern geothermal power projects have minimal impacts on air, land and water ecosystems. Some consider geothermal to be the lowest impact power source. It has much lower environmental impacts than hydro, nuclear, coal, oil or gas fired or windpower plants. Geothermal plants are relatively small in size and have been permitted in national forests and fragile high desert valley environments where other power plants are not allowed.”
The main benefit is that thermal power is clean; No fossil fuels are burned and the carbon dioxide emissions are 1/6th of the cleanest alternative power-plant. Secondly, this resource will not be running out any time soon and is renewable. Finally, it is a local resource and dependence on foreign oil – which also goes hand in hand with frustrating energy price fluctuations – will be a thing of the past. (U.S Department of Energy http://www1.eere.energy.gov/geothermal/faqs.html )
For further information on geothermal technology visit the Department of Energy’s website at http://www1.eere.energy.gov/geothermal/overview.html
The next step would be to figure out how to take advantage of the immense heat emitted directly from the lava. As for right now, we are literally walking on top of an endless amount of “fuel.” The potential for geothermal technology is immense and as stated by Vulcan “Full Steam Ahead!”