Power Beneath Our Feet

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Power Beneath Our Feet

Post  Church1ll on Wed Nov 12, 2008 10:15 am

Since the economy is sunk at the moment and our dependence on oil has yet to change I figured it was time to do an energy-based post. This one is based more on theory than anything but stick with me because it makes sense.

Iceland is probably the only country that comes to mind in terms of purely clean energy. Nuclear power is clean but produces nuclear waste, which unfortunately is expensive to contain and also has the extremely low risk of meltdown so I won't refer to it in this post. Now the reason I bring up Iceland is because they utilize geothermal energy, a rather simple but very powerful source of energy.

Geothermal energy is, in a nutshell, energy harvested from the depths of the earth. There are multiple forms of geothermal energy, all of which involve utilizing the hot rock deep in the earth's surface to heat either water or another fluid. The most basic is called "dry steam" and it essentially involves finding "hot spots" of steam within the earth's surface. This steam is simply brought to the surface to turn turbines, generating power. Flash steam plants are slightly more complicated, but only in facility design. The concept is still the same: find a hot spot and bring its contents to the surface. However, these hot spots contain highly pressurized water. This water is quickly brought to the surface where, due to the rapid change in pressure, "flashes" into steam to turn turbines which generates power. The last form of geothermal energy does not use water, but rather a special fluid that has a much lower boiling point than water. This fluid is pumped through pipes where it comes into contact with the hot rock and flashes into steam, which turns turbines generating power. This is known as binary-cycle geothermal energy. It is the most complicated of the bunch, but works with the same concepts.

Theoretically it is estimated that the earth contains about 2000 zetajoules of energy. The current annual energy usage is at about half a zetajoule. Now, assuming everything in the world used geothermal energy that is 4000 years of clean, reliable, cheap energy. Now also remember that all the water on earth is a constant. What isn't in the sky is in the oceans and rivers and lakes, and what isn't in there is in the ground or in the bodies of all living things. Since all the water on earth is a constant and there is no possible way to keep the earth's core from being obscenely hot you've got an endless supply of energy. Remember though this is theoretical, so for all we know some evil genius has a device that'll freeze the earth's core or maybe the US government already did so it can keep chugging oil like an alcoholic does beer who knows.

Now, you could argue that there is no way the government would allow the complete destruction of the oil industry. You would be correct because most politicians get their funding and have stocks in oil companies and thus suck their dicks dry at every possible moment. Now also remember that cars are the biggest usage of oil in this country. The average family has two cars, and chances are at least one of them gets less than 25 mpg since our country has come to the conclusion that the only way to drive patriotically is to drive a fucking tank...that and most people are pussies and think tanks are the only thing capable of protecting you in an accident and then you realize everyone is driving tanks which makes the accidents worse. Theory of momentum there people. Sorry I'm getting off track my point is the country can't use the whole "people will lose their jobs" bit because obviously you can't power cars using geothermal energy unless they all ran off electricity and the airlines industry needs a ton of oil to function properly. Also remember that oil profits hit new records practically every financial quarter and you have an industry too greedy and corrupt that you actually need more politicians not influenced by oil to get this crap done.

I also realize not every country is situated nicely over "hot spots" to fully utilize geothermal energy. However, every country is situated over massive amounts of magma. The third type of geothermal energy takes advantage of this by using an area of magma and injecting tons of water in there, generating massive amounts of steam in a very short amount of time. This steam creates a ton of pressure which in turn makes it perfect to then harvest for energy. Any kind of water would do in this situation, meaning waste water and sea water can be used instead of clean drinking water. The poorest nations could easily utilize geothermal energy in order to provide for the people.

When you think about it, converting our nation's energy to geothermal makes sense as we would no longer have to bend to the whims of nations that hate us to get some oil. The economy would also benefit as businesses would not have to pay ridiculous amounts of money to get power and gas prices for cars and planes would drop substantially. This conversion could be completed in a matter of a couple decades (assuming the politicians cut the strings the oil companies tie them to), meaning the loss of oil dependency would happen within the next generation.
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Re: Power Beneath Our Feet

Post  Gustavus_Adolfus on Sat Dec 13, 2008 8:55 am

very very far down the road, in order to survive as a species we are going to have to discover an infinitely renewed resource because at the rate we grow even the four zetajoules will be too little. We need to find an unlimited source of energy.
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Endless energy?

Post  choco taco on Sat Jan 31, 2009 6:01 pm

Geothermal energy, while effective, is not yet effective enough. It is true that it is an almost endless supply of energy, and its impacts to the environment are few (aside from sludge). But geothermal energy is still highly inefficient, peaking at around 17% efficiency. At this moment in time, that is about as efficient as solar energy (which, ironically, leaves a bigger carbon footprint than it cleans up). There are a few problems that I see with geothermal energy. Gustavus made a solid point in saying that not every place on the surface of the Earth is capable of supporting geothermal energy plants. But, there is another problem. Hot dry rock geothermal energy (plants that inject water into the surface to heat it up) requires a huge amount of water to create steam. Optimal, optimal, hot dry rock plants burn a minimum of 450 gallons of water per minute. And the other problem with this; it needs to be purified water. The residue from salt water and untreated water can corrode and damage piping, and can also clog pipes similar to how cholesterol clogs arteries. Poor countries that are already suffering from severe clean water shortages (including poor rural areas of wealthy countries) can in no way afford to waste drinking water. There is also the matter of potential long term damage to the area surrounding geothermal plants. Don't get me wrong; I think geothermal plants are a wonderful way to produce energy at a relatively cheap price and they do little damage to the atmosphere. The sad fact is, however, that fossil fuels produce far more energy than geothermal and are cheaper to run, but at the cost of more damage to the environment. Geothermal energy is a part of solving the looming energy crisis, but it is in no way a surefire answer.

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Re: Power Beneath Our Feet

Post  Gustavus_Adolfus on Sat Jan 31, 2009 6:24 pm

one word: fussion
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