Geothermal energy refers to heat energy stored in the Earth’s surface and crust, where energy is naturally produced by the Earth’s seismic activity. Hot springs are the most common observable source of this type of energy being produced naturally. Geothermal energy production is the process of capturing this energy, such as using hot springs to power generators, which in turn produces usable electricity (Boyle, 2004).
The main advantage of geothermal energy is that it is naturally produced, does not create much pollution, and theoretically limitless due to constant seismic activity. However, the main challenge with this form of energy is that it tends to be concentrated in areas where there is notable seismic activity, so only limited areas can be used for generator placement (Barbier, 2002). Also under current technologies, the cost of producing a sizable amount of energy from geothermal sources is substantial, so there is a current barrier in regard to geothermal investments. However, in areas where geothermal activity is present, such as in parts of Nevada, Idaho, Montana and other western states, there is considerable opportunity for the investment of geothermal energy sources that could be used to produce electricity (Dickson and Fanelli, 2013).
Geothermal energy remains a potential source of sustainable energy that the United States could develop, and in doing so, creating more renewable energy sources that would reduce the reliance on the import of energy and fossil fuels from foreign sources. The barriers to this form of energy are a matter of cost, rather than capability; if these costs can be reduced, and technology can be developed that would be able to transport this available power to parts of the country where there is not as much seismic activity, then geothermal energy has significant potential over the long term. The more the United States is able to generate its own energy, the less reliance it has on foreign energy sources.
- Barbier, E. (2002). Geothermal energy technology and current status: an overview. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 6(1), 3-65.
- Boyle, G. (Ed.). (2004). Renewable energy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Dickson, M. H., & Fanelli, M. (2013). Geothermal energy: utilization and technology. Routledge.