Geothermal Energy

Geothermal energy is utilizing heat from the Earth. Radioactive material from the core of the planet decays and moves upward to the surface through conduction and convection. The amount of heat within the Earth's core could easily power our entire planet. Yet it is almost impossible to tap into it. Geothermal fields are only accessible near volcanically active areas, i.e. the boundary of tectonic plates. Many of these geothermal reservoirs are found in mountainous regions, glaciers, or the ocean floor [6].

Commercial geothermal power relies on hydrothermal resources, i.e. hot fluids or steam to transfer energy to the plant. The following figure visualizes the main components of a hydrothermal geothermal system.

The magmatic intrusion is the hot body where magma goes upward into the earths crust due to the shifting of continental plates. Geothermal reservoirs are areas of hot water trapped under high pressure layer of rocks that are heated by the hot magma below. A geothermal well then taps into the reservoir to pump the hot steam into a power plant [7].

Utility companies use this heated water from geothermal resevoirs to drive generators and produce electricity for its customers. The heated water can also be directly used to be used as heat in industry, homes, etc. This is incredibly common in Iceland which is ran off of geothermal and hydropower.

Government Oversight


Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy: The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that the U.S. contains 30 GW of undiscovered hydrothermal resource capacity and has more than 100 GW of geothermal potential in the Earth's subsurface. The Geothermal Technologies Office within the EERE supports research that reduces the risk and costs of bringing geothermal power online while investing in projects that establish geothermal energy as a core component of the U.S. energy supply [3].

National Renewable Energy Laboratory: NREL research surrounding geothermal focuses on lowering the costs of geothermal energy production. This includes research on condensation of mixed working fluids, heat exchanger linings, air-cooled condensers, and alternative non-condensable gas removal methods [4].


Bureau of Land Management: The BLM manages 245 million acres of public lands with geothermal potential. There are 818 geothermal leases, 59 of which are operational that produce 1,500 MW of energy [5].