Geothermal Technology

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Geothermal Technology
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What is Geothermal Energy?
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The term geothermal comes from the Greek geo, meaning earth, and therine, meaning heat, thus geothermal energy is energy derived from the natural heat of the earth. The earth’s temperature varies widely, and geothermal energy is usable for a wide range of temperatures from room temperature to well over 300°F. For commercial use, a geothermal reservoir capable of providing hydrothermal (hot water and steam) resources is necessary. Geothermal reservoirs are generally classified as being either low temperature (<150°C) or high temperature (>150°C). Generally speaking, the high temperature reservoirs are the ones suitable for, and sought out for, commercial production of electricity. Geothermal reservoirs are found in “geothermal systems,” which are regionally localized geologic settings where the earth’s naturally occurring heat flow is near enough to the earth’s surface to bring steam or hot water, to the surface. Examples of geothermal systems include the Geysers Region in Northern California, the Imperial Valley in Southern California, and the Yellowstone Region in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.
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Dry Steam
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Power plants using dry steam systems were the first type of geothermal power generation plants built. They use steam from the geothermal reservoir as it comes from wells and route it directly through turbine/generator units to produce electricity. An example of a dry steam generation operation is at the Geysers Region in northern California.
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Flash Steam
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Flash steam plants are the most common type of geothermal power generation plants in operation today. They use water at temperatures greater than 360°F (182°C) that is pumped under high pressure to the generation equipment at the surface. Upon reaching the generation equipment, the pressure is suddenly reduced, allowing some of the hot water to convert or “flash” into steam. This steam is then used to power the turbine/generator units to produce electricity. The remaining hot water not flashed into steam, and the water condensed from the steam, is generally pumped back into the reservoir. An example of an area using the flash steam operation is the CalEnergy Navy I flash geothermal power plant at the Coso geothermal field.
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Binary Cycle
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Binary cycle geothermal power generation plants differ from dry steam and flash steam systems because the water or steam from the geothermal reservoir never comes in contact with the turbine/generator units. In the binary system, the water from the geothermal reservoir is used to heat another “working fluid,” which is vaporized and used to turn the turbine/generator units. The geothermal water and the “working fluid” are each confined in separate circulating systems or “closed loops” and never come in contact with each other. The advantage of the binary cycle plant is that they can operate with lower temperature waters (225°F to 360°F) by using working fluids that have an even lower boiling point than water. They also produce no air emissions. An example of an area using a binary cycle power generation system is the Mammoth Pacific binary geothermal power plants at the Casa Diablo geothermal field. Contact Us

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