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Science >> Earth Science >> Environment

The Environment

Geothermal Energy

What is geothermal energy?

The inside, or core, of the Earth is very hot. This heat sometimes breaks through to the surface of the Earth through volcanoes or geysers. When we use heat from the Earth to generate energy it's called geothermal energy. The name geothermal is a combination of the word "geo", which means earth, and "thermal", which means heat.

Sustainable Energy

The Earth is constantly being warmed by its core. When we use geothermal energy we don't use up resources like we do when we burn gas or coal. Although we do use up a tiny bit of the Earth's heat, it is a very little amount in comparison to the overall heat of the Earth. This makes geothermal energy a type of sustainable energy.

Geothermal power plants are very clean and have little negative impact on the environment.

Geothermal heat pumps for homes
Geothermal heat pumps can keep homes warm

How do we get power from the Earth?

There are three main ways that we harness and use geothermal energy:
Geothermal power plant
Generating electricity using a geothermal power plant


History of Geothermal Energy

The use of geothermal energy is nothing new. People used hot springs as far back as Ancient China. The Ancient Romans took the concept a step further and used hot springs as a way to heat flooring and public baths.

The first use of geothermal energy for electricity was in 1904 when the geothermal electric generator was invented. A few years later, in 1911, the first geothermal electric plant was built. In the 1940s, the heat pump began to be used for heating buildings, but it didn't become popular until the 1970s oil crisis.

Are there any drawbacks to geothermal energy?

Probably the main disadvantage to geothermal energy is the cost. It can be very expensive to build a geothermal plant. Building a plant can also be risky for a power company as the steam can potentially run out at a given site. The main environmental disadvantage is the possibility of releasing toxic gasses when the well is drilled into the ground.

Fun Facts about Geothermal Energy Activities

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