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Frequently Asked Questions

Learn more about geothermal energy and enhanced or engineered geothermal systems (EGS)

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What is geothermal energy?

Geothermal energy is heat (thermal) that comes from within the earth (geo). Water and steam warmed by the earth’s heat are used to generate electricity or can be used directly for heating. Even if water is not present, we can use the warm ground at depths of 4 to 300 feet for heating and cooling residential or commercial buildings.

Is geothermal energy a renewable resource?

Yes, the heat coming from the core of the earth cannot be depleted by human activities. When generating electricity from a geothermal reservoir it is common practice to inject the produced water back into the earth to be reheated and used again.

What are the advantages of geothermal energy compared to other green energies?

Unlike solar and wind energy, geothermal energy can be generated constantly, not just when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing. The surface footprint of a geothermal power plant is very compact, generally less than 5 acres. Because the footprint is so small, geothermal plants have little impact on the local environment or wildlife.

What is direct use geothermal energy?

There are many uses of geothermal energy besides electric generation. Warm geothermal waters can be used directly for heating spas and swimming pools, heating buildings and greenhouses, growing fish, vegetable drying, and melting snow. Direct use and heat pumps save 100 million barrels of oil per year and are used in 82 countries across the world.

What is the potential of using geothermal resources in the US?

Geothermal energy is already used throughout the US and its applications are growing. Imagine providing the energy needed by Salt Lake City, San Francisco and New York from the earth’s heat. The energy being used today is only a small fraction of the total recoverable heat that is available. If we could capture even 2% of the thermal energy at depths of ~2 to 6 miles, we could provide 2000 times the annual energy use in the United States. New technologies, including Enhanced Geothermal Systems, are being developed to extract this heat.