A lot has been written about solar and wind power as alternative sources for hydrogen, but geothermal energy may just be the ugly stepchild of renewable energy resources. While many people assume that the energy of the future will come from the sky by sun or wind, looking in the opposite direction, underground may yield a gold mine of renewable energy from which to power cars, homes and businesses.
The fact is, in the U. S., geothermal is currently generating more electricity than solar or wind power. Geothermal plants are mostly centered in the Western United States where relatively shallow underground geothermal sources can be attained. The Geysers area a few miles north of San Francisco is the largest generator of geothermal electricity in the U. S. averaging about 1,000 megawatts.
While most geothermal power plants use water that is over 300-degrees F to produce electricity, newer technology has been developed to take advantage of lower temperatures. In Alaska, United Technology Corporation has created a 200 kw geothermal power plant using water at 165-degrees F, which is the world’s lowest temperature plant.
Iceland has formally stated its ambition to become the world’s first full-scale hydrogen economy, largely based upon its vast geothermal resources sizzling just below the surface of the country. And, with new technology, heat sources don’t have to be just below the earth’s surface, either.
Several companies around the world are already engaging in deep well geothermal drilling, using the earth’s heat far below the surface to generate electricity. A patent has just been filed by Timothy Flick of Moorhead, Minnesota for a deep well geothermal hydrogen generator that includes an electrolyzer unit. This unit creates hydrogen from water deep within the well, then forces it upwards for capture.
But, like wind, solar and other renewable energy resources, geothermal energy remains a vastly neglected resource upon this earth. With new technology being developed for using lower temperature geothermal energy near the surface and deep well drilling to capture heat well below the earth’s surface, it is only a matter of time before geothermal to hydrogen technology will become commonplace. When this happens, consumers won’t be so steamed when filling up their hydrogen cars at the local fueling station. Then again, perhaps being steamed is a good thing.