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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Turn up the heat on geothermal


A schematic representation of an ideal geothermal system.
(Source: Dickson and Fanelli, 2004)          


To read an editorial which was in the Tuesday September 27th,2011 edition of the Edmonton Journal entitled "Turn up the heat on geothermal" please click on the highlighted words in this sentence. I hope you were like me while I was reading this editorial, by this I mean I hope you caught yourself shaking your head! Why? Because statements like these from this editorial stand out!:

(a) northern Alberta is among the regions with the greatest potential for tapping the Earth's heat and creating energy through geothermal technology"....

(b"That means we are blessed with a renewal, non-polluting source of electricity right under our feet..."

(c)"What we lack are clean,renewal energy sources..."

(d)"The report, "Geothermal Energy Resource Potential of Canada,says as few as 100 geothermal projects could meet a significant fraction of Canada's baseload energy needs,especially in the West."...It (geothemal energy techniques and technology), produces almost no emissions..."

(e)"The report calls for greater government commitment to research, better land surveying to determine where the best potential is and test projects to get this renewal resource ticking as a major player."

Let  us now look at these five points which I believe are the most important aspects of this editorial! Firstly if Alberta is one of the areas of this planet which has the greatest potential for creating energy using Geothermal technology, why hasn't this fact been known to the Government of Alberta before this point in time? This fact suggest the Alberta Government has no plan for our province's energy needs in the future doesn't it? It also suggests that the Premier and his ministers are "in-bed" with the Oil Industry, and have been for such a long time that they have neglected to pay attention  and examine the potential for Geothermal energy in our Province! According to online research I have done:

"Prince Piero Ginori Conti tested the first geothermal power generator on 4 July 1904 in Larderello, Italy."

If the idea of geothermal energy has been around for that long, we have to state that the province of Alberta and the World for that matter has really dropped the ball, especially since this process and the associated  technology, "produces almost no air emissions"!! It is time the Government of Alberta use the potential we have in the Province to use Geothermal Technology!!! Especially if the source of this energy is rewable and non-polluting!

The fact that Canada would need only 100 geothermal projects to provide a significant fraction of Canada's baseload energy needs, is fantastic! That isn't even 10 per province and territory! What is holding back these provinces and territories from implenting geothermal energy projects in their boundaries? As far as I am concerned that is a big question which needs to be answered and the sooner the better!!

In Canada, something called the "Geothermal Energy Association exists (website at:http://www.cangea.ca/ )
At the website I found the following:

"In June 2011, the Geological Survey of Canada and a team of leading scientists in the field of geothermal energy have released a report detailing the geothermal energy resource potential for geothermal energy in Canada."

"The report confirms that “geothermal energy, as a renewable energy source, not only provides a clean and renewable option for electricity generation around the clock, but also efficient and competitive heating options for Canadians all over Canada”, said Alexander Richter, Director of the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association."


You may be thinking as I am, this geothermal energy idea seems like too much of a good thing. You may say, okay geothermal energy has its advantages, but what about its shortcomings as an energy  source, what about its disadvantages?

Well, Geothermal energy does have some disadvantages:Some of these disadvantages are listed below,however I have also indicted how these disadvantages can be mitigated using research from experts in the field.

(1)"Geothermal energy use does entail some environmental impact,"A few (geothermal facilities)                        do produce some silica and sulfur dioxide, both of which are largely removed from the vapors and either returned to the hydrothermal well or processed and sold for industrial uses. However, "Most geothermal facilities operate virtually emission free. Some even reduce sulfur emissions that would have occurred from natural venting if these sites had been left untapped."
 (source: http://www.energy-consumers-edge.com/pros_and_cons_of_geothermal_energy.html

(2)"Geothermal power plants do have high initial costs to drill and construct new facilities. But relatively high construction costs are paid back because there are no fuel costs." (source: same as above)  We have to admit that coal-based and oil based power plants also have high initial costs don't we? Secondly these other types of power-plants certainly do have the disadvantage of having significant  fuel costs over time!! And this use of fuel contributes to pollution of the environment!!

(3)"Using current technologies, geothermal power is primarily available where hot magma finds its way close to the surface and heats ground water to usable temperatures above 212F.These hydrothermal hot spots don’t occur everywhere. In the U.S. they are located in the Western States, Alaska, and Hawaii." (source: same as above).  Well, as I have already stated above,  "northern Alberta is among the regions with the greatest potential for tapping the Earth's heat and creating energy through geothermal technology". These hydrothermal hot spots may not exist in some areas of the world, which rules out the use of geothermal energy technology in these places unless the energy can be transferred to these areas  where there are no hot spots (which certainly is a possibility!!).

(4) Another disadvantage of Geothermal energy technology is this one:


"The big key to universal use of geothermal resources is the development of deep, hot dry rock resources. The key to that is drilling technology. Due to the hot, often corrosive, environment of geothermal resource areas, drilling for geothermal resources is far more expensive than any other kind of drilling.
Even in relatively shallow hydrothermal wells, drilling costs can amount to half of the price of a new generating plant." (source:same as above). According to this source however, this disadvantage can be mitigated in the future. This is due to the fact that:


"... drilling technology is improving. Drilling costs, on average, have dropped by a fourth in the last two decades. The big key to universal use of geothermal resources is the development of deep, hot dry rock resources. The key to that is drilling technology. Due to the hot, often corrosive, environment of geothermal resource areas, drilling for geothermal resources is far more expensive than any other kind of drilling.
Even in relatively shallow hydrothermal wells, drilling costs can amount to half of the price of a new generating plant.
But drilling technology is improving. Drilling costs, on average, have dropped by a fourth in the last two decades. As drilling technology improves, geothermal power plants could become universally available..!!!"  


Wow this is a fantastic revelation isn't it?

Drilling technology is sure to improve in the future as experts develop a better understanding of the technology and  as they also better understand  the concept of geothermal energy! What is even more wonderful is this fact:
"Geothermal resources may outlast the sun. There is enough thermal nuclear energy in our Earth to fuel the engines of civilization for billions of years. " (source:same as above). Obviously if these Geothermal resources might outlast the sun, then they will exist on the planet as long as all life on the planet exists!

(5) One last disad\vantage of Geothermal energy is this one:"Although the Earth's heat is ever-present, current or future geothermal sites may not be continuous sources of heat. Hot rocks must be managed well or the the water can cool the rocks. While some consider geothermal energy the most cost-efficient and non-polluting, there is as yet no guarantee that possible sites will provide desired quantities."
(source:http://www.ehow.com/about_4812930_pros-cons-geothermal-energy.html )

This seems to be the main disadvantage associated with implementing geothermal energy and its technology!
"The western United States has the best geothermal regions in the country, while Iceland , New Zealand , the Philippines , and South America , are some of the more prominent global "hot spots." In Iceland , geothermal energy, caused by the constant movement of geologic plates coupled with the volcanic nature of the island, is used to heat 95% of all homes."

 Depletion of a Geothermal energy source may also occur. This is because "steam  is being extracted faster than it can be naturally replaced."  (source:http://www.altenergy.org/renewables/geothermal.html ). Please read this article first before you read what I have stated below.


However,  as stated in the article directly above, this problem can be overcome in this manner: "...plant operators and steam suppliers continually seek new operating strategies to maximize future power generation coupled with daily injection of millions of gallons of reclaimed municipal wastewater." Even though improvements in efficiency and conservation are being implemented and in 1996 The Geysers was still producing enough electricity to supply the power demand of a city like San Francisco , it is projected that the steam field will be defunct in 50 years or so. To prevent this sort of thing from happening elsewhere, geothermal facilities can use a closed-loop system at all times, or the re-injection of water back into the system for constant steam generation."

If only certain areas of the planet are best able to access and use Geothermal energy and its technology, then so be it. It will still be better for these areas to use this  technology, rather than using non-renewable energy such as coal, and oil, because of the fact that the latter cause so much pollution to our planet in various forms! In addition, this technology will make us less reliant upon these pollution-casing energy sources, and that cannot be underestimated!!
Thank you for reading this blog post of mine! I hope you found this information interesting,education and thought-provoking! If you have views on using Geothermal energy or its processes please leave them as comments to this blog post by clicking on the word :comments" next to the posted time of this blog post and directly under the post! Thank you for doing so!

To learn more about Geothermal energy and its technology please visit the following websites:


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geothermal_energy

http://www.cangea.ca/what-is-geothermal/

http://iceland.ednet.ns.ca/schedule.htm

http://www.darvill.clara.net/altenerg/geothermal.htm


http://www1.eere.energy.gov/geothermal/

http://www.thestar.com/business/cleanbreak/article/809649--hamilton-geothermal-could-meet-canada-s-power-needs

http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/technology_and_impacts/energy_technologies/how-geothermal-energy-works.html

Here are some  videos I found online about Geothermal Energy:

(1) Here is an interesting short 5 minute video about Geothermal energy I found on the Dailymotion website:


Geothermal: Energy Right Under Our Feet - CBN.com by cbnonline

(2) A video with an emphasis on Canada: This video has an excellent part within it within which the process of  obtaining energy from Geothermal sources is presented:


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"Our subconscious minds have no sense of humor, play no jokes and cannot tell the difference between reality and an imagined thought or image. What we continually think about eventually will manifest in our lives."-Sidney Madwed



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A person's true wealth is the good he or she does in the world. - Mohammed



Our task must be to free ourselves... by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty. -Albert Einstein



The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others. - Ghandi



The unselfish effort to bring cheer to others will be the beginning of a happier life for ourselves. - Helen Keller



Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life. Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism. Confronting your fears and allowing yourself the right to be human can, paradoxically, make yourself a happier and more productive person. - Dr. David M. Burns



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Mankind's true moral test, its fundamental test (which lies deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals. And in this respect mankind has suffered a fundamental debacle, a debacle so fundamental that all others stem from it. -



Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being



The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them. That's the essence of inhumanity. -George Bernard Shaw

Ego's trick is to make us lose sight of our interdependence. That kind of ego-thought gives us a perfect justification to look out only for ourselves. But that is far from the truth. In reality we all depend on each other and we have to help each other. The husband has to help his wife, the wife has to help the husband, the mother has to help her children, and the children are supposed to help the parents too, whether they want to or not.-Gehlek Rinpoche Source: "The Best Buddhist Writing 2005 pg. 165

The hostile attitude of conquering nature ignores the basic interdependence of all things and events---that the world beyond the skin is actually an extension of our own bodies---and will end in destroying the very environment from which we emerge and upon which our whole life depends.