By now, the need for clean energy is clear. Climate change is prompting industries of all kinds to reduce pollution and emissions to foster a healthier environment. The energy sector often takes on the responsibility of transforming others, such as by providing solar and wind as renewable options. Geothermal energy is now making a name for itself as well, thanks to new technology.
Geothermal has stayed in the background for years while other renewables came to the fore. That’s because geothermal energy needs some improvements. Though there are a few different types of generation, the system usually requires an optimal location where there’s a good heat source under the Earth’s surface.
Some locations are ideal for sourcing geothermal. For example, Ball State University has access to heat under the earth and uses geothermal power as a sustainable source of energy for their campus. In addition, Petaluma, California has begun transitioning their power usage to be 100% renewable by partnering with a company that's helping to source geothermal energy via Sonoma County Geysers.
Since location plays such a crucial role, geothermal energy is not always accessible for everyone. Thus, it hasn’t gotten the attention that other renewables have.
However, to combat the climate crisis, the energy sector must find solutions. Fossil fuels like oil, coal and gas are still predominant in the United States — they comprised 80% of U.S. energy consumption in 2019. That number needs to drop drastically to see environmental improvements.
Traditionally, geothermal energy uses an open-loop dynamic where the system pumps up water or steam and uses the heat as electricity. Though it’s a sustainable option, water and steam are still valuable resources. The open-loop loses some along the way as it pumps it all back down into the Earth.
A closed-loop heat pump is a better option. Once energy experts combine that system with new technology, geothermal becomes reliable and a more practical energy option for everyone.
In a closed loop, the water and steam cycle through the pipes continuously. The system does not consistently take in new resources and only uses a set amount of water and steam. Analytics and sensors give energy professionals the power to monitor exactly how efficient a geothermal system is.
They can predict energy demands as well as output, using sensors within the pipes and on the power grid. Before harsh weather or blackouts can occur, professionals use the tech to understand how much energy the system can pump out. Then, they can properly prepare for the incoming demand.
However, the biggest and most vital aspect of closed-loop technology is that it can provide energy on demand. Professionals can have geothermal systems store and disperse energy without disrupting anyone else. The closed loop continuously heats and generates electricity, and the tech makes it more accessible. With this dynamic in place, a geothermal energy grid can vastly expand and cater to people or businesses no matter their location.
Some European and American countries were surveyed as accepting of geothermal energy with environmental concerns. With innovations coming to light regarding risk minimization, more companies are becoming interested in this energy. For instance, BP and Chevron recently backed Eavor Technologies, a startup specializing in this specific tech for geothermal energy.
With the new technology in place, geothermal energy becomes an innovator for its sector. It can push forward larger-scale adoption of clean energy since it’s now a more accessible option.
Moreover, geothermal generation helps public health and the economy. The COVID-19 pandemic has stressed the importance of clean energy, positioning geothermal as a profitable source in the next few years.
Also, the unemployment rate is still slowly coming down from April 2020’s record high. The energy sector can stimulate the economy for a green recovery by channeling new resources and tech into geothermal. Since this kind of work requires people of all backgrounds — tech, energy, environment, contracting, marketing, finance — adding jobs will be an all-around beneficial move.
As renewables and geothermal’s new tech increase in popularity, fossil fuels can slowly fade to the background. New geothermal tech readies the energy sector for faster integrations in households, communities and businesses.
Ultimately, the tech integration starts small. Smart analytics and sensors help energy professionals more easily control supply and demand levels. As professionals use that control to supply more people with power, public health, the economy and the environment all benefit.