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If you’ve ever enjoyed a spa day at a hot spring resort or visited Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park, you’ve had direct experience with geothermal energy.

Geothermal simply means heat from the Earth, and we can use this type of energy to generate electricity, heat and cool buildings, store energy and even extract minerals from the Earth. It’s available at all times, a reliable, constant energy solution.

At the core of our planet, temperatures soar to thousands of degrees. This intense heat radiates up to the Earth's mantle, creating the potential for abundant and renewable energy generation. However, conditions below ground must be ideal for geothermal energy to reach the surface.

Only a small part of the planet’s surface enjoys these conditions as a natural luxury, without technology. Places where it’s easy to naturally capture heat energy from inside the Earth are those along the Pacific Ring of Fire (including the Pacific Northwest), and Iceland.

In fact, Iceland, a pioneer in geothermal energy, relies on this renewable source for a significant portion of its electricity and heating needs. In addition to electricity generation, Iceland uses geothermal energy to directly warm homes, reducing dependence on fossil fuels.

The most common method to harness geothermal energy where it is not naturally abundant involves drilling wells into the Earth's crust to access hot water reservoirs. These drive turbines connected to generators, producing electricity. The Earth essentially becomes a powerful, everlasting engine.

One of the major advantages of geothermal power is its low environmental impact. The process generates minimal greenhouse gas emissions compared to traditional energy sources, contributing to cleaner air and a healthier planet. Geothermal power plants also require less land compared to solar or wind installations.

As with any energy source, geothermal energy has its pros and cons. We’ve covered a lot of the pros. As for cons, right now they’re costly to build and only practical in certain locations. As a result, geothermal energy currently accounts for just 0.5% of the world’s renewable energy capacity.

To make up for source drawbacks and ensure reliability, the world has shifted toward generating energy from a diverse mix of sources. For more information about our energy mix, click here.
Chris is a Communications Partner specializing in Alliant Energy’s renewable investments. Coming from a journalism background, he’s excited to tell the story of Alliant Energy’s Clean Energy Blueprint and other renewable trends in new and exciting ways.

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