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Energy resources: Geothermal energy


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Energy from sources other than fossil and nuclear fuels is to a large extent free of the concerns about environmental effects and renewability that characterise those two sources. Each alternative source supplies energy continually, whether or not we use it. And many alternative sources of energy have been used in simple ways for millennia, e.g. wind and water mills, sails, wood burning — but only in the last two centuries has their potential begun to be exploited on an industrial scale. Except for geothermal energy, all have their origins in energy generated outside the Earth, yet the potential of each is limited by its total supply set against its rate of use. Each is likely to be renewable in the sense that the available rates of supply of each exceed those at which they are used. The main concern is whether or not such alternatives can supplant fossil- and nucloear-fuel use to power social needs fast enough to avoid the likelihood of future global warming and other kinds of pollution.

This unit considers one of these alternative sources, geothermal energy derived from the interior heat of the Earth. It looks at the most favourable areas for geothermal exploitation, heat production, geothermal power plants and the pros, cons and future of geothermal energy.

This unit is from our archive and is an adapted extract from Earth's physical resources: origin, use and environmental impact (S278) which is no longer taught by The Open University. If you want to study formally with us, you may wish to explore other courses we offer in this subject area [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .