Utilizing Geothermal Energy for Distributed Power Generation
Geothermal energy is heat derived below the earth’s surface which can be harnessed to generate clean, renewable energy. This vital, clean energy resource supplies renewable power around the clock and emits little or no greenhouse gases — all while requiring a small environmental footprint to develop.
Although geothermal heat pumps can be used almost anywhere, most direct-use and electrical production facilities in the United States are located in the west, where the geothermal resource base is concentrated.
Current drilling technology limits the development of geothermal resources to relatively shallow water- or steam-filled reservoirs, most of which are found in the western part of the United States. But researchers are developing new technologies for capturing the heat in deeper, “dry” rocks, which would support drilling almost anywhere.
Conventional hydro-thermal resources make up most of the current geothermal operating plants in the United States. Power generation comes from drawing heat from the fluid found naturally deep below the Earth’s surface. Steam is captured at the surface and spins a turbine, which then powers an electric generator
TYPES OF GEOTHERMAL ENERGY
Heat from the earth—geothermal energy—heats water that has seeped into underground reservoirs. These reservoirs can be tapped for a variety of uses, depending on the temperature of the water. The energy from high-temperature reservoirs (225°-600°F) can be used to produce electricity.
In the United States, geothermal energy has been used to generate electricity on a large scale since 1960. Through research and development, geothermal power is becoming more cost-effective and competitive with fossil fuels.
There are currently three types of geothermal power plants:
Dry steam plants use steam from underground wells to rotate a turbine, which activates a generator to produce electricity. There are only two known underground resources of steam in the United States: The Geysers in northern California and Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park. Because Yellowstone is protected from development, the power plants at The Geysers are the only dry steam plants in the country.
The most common type of geothermal power plant, flash steam plants use water at temperatures of more than 360ºF. As this hot water flows up through wells in the ground, the decrease in pressure causes some of the water to boil into steam. The steam is then used to power a generator, and any leftover water and condensed steam is returned to the reservoir.
Binary cycle plants use the heat from lower-temperature reservoirs (225°-360°F) to boil a working fluid, which is then vaporized in a heat exchanger and used to power a generator. The water, which never comes into direct contact with the working fluid, is then injected back into the ground to be reheated.
XLS Energy is committed to responsibly developing, demonstrating, and deploying innovative technologies to support the continued expansion of the geothermal industry across the United States.