Geothermal energy is hands down THE best renewable energy avenue out there: The Earth is always generating heat, and there won’t be any “peak heat”, nor could we ever extract this energy at the same pace with which the Earth generates it. The process has a carbon footprint that is negligible compared to other fossil fuel and renewable energy processes. Yet geothermal power gets decidedly little press.
The idea of geothermal power has been around for ages: Italy built the world’s first power plant that generated electricity from the Earth’s heat over a hundred years ago. In 1957, New Zealand was next to latch onto the idea with its own geothermal power plant, followed two years later by the US, which today boasts the largest geothermal power capacity in the world.
It’s a simple idea in terms of physics: Water heated up within the Earth emerges as steam and is used to turn a turbine that produces electricity. Geothermal power plants include dry steam plants (like Italy’s first), flash steam plants (the most common), and binary cycle plants (today’s favored).
• Dry Steam Plants: A well is drilled and the steam (150°C or higher) that comes from this well turns a turbine, cools back into water through a compressor and sends the cooled water back to Earth via a secondary well.
• Flash Steam Plants: Highly pressurized hot water (180°C…