Geothermal energy

Hot water and steam from deep underground can be used to drive turbines: this is called geothermal energy.

Geothermal and nuclear energy are the only energy resources that do not come from the Sun.

Volcanic areas

Several types of rock contain radioactive substances such as uranium.

Radioactive decay of these substances releases heat energy, which warms up the rocks.

In volcanic areas, the rocks may heat water so that it rises to the surface naturally as hot water and steam.

Here the steam can be used to drive turbines and electricity generators.

Geothermal power stations are located in places such as Iceland, California and Italy.

Hot rocks

In some places, the rocks are hot, but no hot water or steam rises to the surface.

In this situation, deep wells can be drilled down to the hot rocks and cold water pumped down.

The water runs through fractures in the rocks and is heated up.

It returns to the surface as hot water and steam, where its energy can be used to drive turbines and electricity generators.

The diagram shows how this works.

Cold water is pumped down from the generating station. It heats up while passing through fissures in the rocks, and returns to the generating station in the form of steam and hot water.How a generating station creates energy

Advantages

  • Geothermal energy is a renewable energy resource and there are no fuel costs.
  • No harmful polluting gases are produced.

Disadvantages

  • Most parts of the world do not have suitable areas where geothermal energy can be exploited.