In today’s day and age, it may be easy to forget about some of the great renewable energy products on the market. After all, there are so many new options for both homes and commercial buildings. Though a solar panel system is a great option for reducing power costs and leading a greener life, it can also be used in conjunction with other renewable energy products. In the past few years, you may have noticed an uptick in the use of solar-wind combinations, especially in rural or desert regions. However, there are undoubtedly a growing number of homes and buildings relying on solar-geothermal systems. The real surprise is in the fact that the geothermal systems are primarily located underground and are relatively unnoticeable to a passerby. Therefore, you have likely seen a solar-geothermal system without even knowing it!
On another note, what exactly is geothermal energy? Geothermal energy creation involves utilizing subsurface heating sources, sometimes miles below the ground, to create energy. Above ground geothermal plants use underground piping to pull heat from reservoirs or fractured rock from deep below the earth’s surface. The steam and heat collected is then used to generate electricity. Generally, these heat sources, whether they are underground reservoirs, molten rock, or shifting plates, are very deep within the earth and advanced technology is necessary to reach them. Geothermal power plants remain exclusively in the western United States, many over and around tectonic hot zones. Whether these plants will pop up elsewhere, only the future and the advance of technology will tell.
While geothermal, commercial plants have the ability to build deep underground piping systems, the average homebuilders does not. A residential heating and cooling geothermal system will be built, and thus will function, very differently from a large-scale plant. This is because the technology and resources used in a residential application generally only reach the first 500 feet below the surface of the earth. Residential systems similarly involve installing piping and/or heat pumps to heat or cool a home. Residential geothermal system use has increased over the past decade, oftentimes in rural areas where residents rely on wood burning or propane to keep their homes heated.
Though many homes can benefit from geothermal heating and cooling, many are dissuaded by cost factors. In comparison to many other renewables, geothermal projects generally have a longer return on investment period. One great benefit of geothermal heating and cooling is that it is relatively unaffected by weather conditions. Unlike solar panels that depend on sunlight, and turbines that depend on wind, geothermal heating and cooling remains largely unchanged through the seasons and will not be destroyed by events such as tornados or hurricanes because they exist below the ground.
It appears that there are few downsides to using geothermal energy, whether it be in a home or for a power plant. Many of the concerns surrounding geothermal energy involve creating artificial pathways through hot rocks or depleting underground water reservoirs. However, close monitoring can prevent depletion or destruction. There is also a risk that toxic fumes will surface through the heat and water drawn from the earth; however, advanced exhaust systems and filters can remedy this.
In sum, geothermal power plants and geothermal heating and cooling will become more common as technology advances. Hopefully, people will become accustomed to combining different forms of renewable products to create the perfect system for their home or building. In the meantime, Renogy looks forward to serving those customers interested in solar.