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Energy resources: Geothermal energy
Energy from sources other than fossil and nuclear fuels is to a large extent free of...
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. This unit considers one of these alternative sources, geothermal energy derived from the interior heat of the Earth, and the potential for this alternative to supplant fossil and nuclear fuel use to power social needs fast enough to avoid the likelihood of future global warming and other kinds of pollution.
By the end of this unit you should be able to:
- explain the principles that underlie the ability of geothermal energy to deliver useable energy;
- outline the technologies that are used to harness the power of geothermal energy;
- discuss the positive and negative aspects of geothermal energy in relation to natural and human aspects of the environment.
- Current section: Introduction
- Learning outcomes
- 1 Geothermal energy
- 2 High- to medium-enthalpy steam fields
- 3 Hot dry rock (HDR) fields
- 4 Locating high-enthalpy geothermal fields
- 5 Geothermal power plants
- 6 Direct heating using geothermal energy
- 7 The pros and cons, and future of geothermal energy
- 8 Summary
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Energy resources: Geothermal energy
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 is an extract from an Open University course which is no longer available to new students. If you found this interesting you could explore more free Environmental Science courses or view the range of currently available OU Environmental Science courses.
Copyright & revisions
Originally published: Thursday, 2nd June 2011
- Creative-Commons: The Open University is proud to release this free course under a Creative Commons licence. However, any third-party materials featured within it are used with permission and are not ours to give away. These materials are not subject to the Creative Commons licence. See terms and conditions. Full details can be found in the Acknowledgements section.
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