Geothermal energy isn’t as popular as solar power yet, but it’s on the rise. Geothermal is becoming a leading renewable energy source, not only for energy but also for heating and air conditioning in many homes worldwide. But, is this geothermal energy affected by the sun?
Geothermal energy isn’t affected by the sun other than the heating of exposed pipes and other equipment. All of the energy produced by geothermal sources comes from the earth. It’s derived from heat and moisture below the surface, which provides reliable temperature and pressure for energy production.
Throughout this article, you’ll learn the following info about geothermal energy’s relationship with the sun:
- How sunlight and warmth might impact geothermal structures
- Why geothermal sources can create energy without the sun
- How you can protect your home’s or company’s geothermal pipes and structures
Is Geothermal Energy Independent From the Sun?
An in-depth, educational article by Wired proves that geothermal is one of the only two energy sources that aren’t dependent on the sun (the other source is nuclear power). If we’re going to lengthen our planet’s time in the solar system, we need to start leaning towards renewable energy. Geothermal power is one of the best options available.
Here are five reasons that geothermal energy doesn’t need the sun:
- It uses heat from underneath the earth’s surface. While solar panels need sunlight, geothermal energy uses our planet’s natural heat. It’s created by magma and hot springs below the surface that are heated to a reliable temperature throughout the year. We don’t need to wait for the daytime to access it, it is available twenty-four hours a day.
- Water springs and magma contribute to the pressure. As mentioned above, it’s independent of the sun’s warmth and UV rays. The only two things that geothermal energy needs are warmth and a transportation method. With the proper placement and pipes near the heat source, geothermal energy is ready to provide energy.
- Most pipes are insulated to keep out the sun’s warmth and UV rays. Even if they’re exposed to the sun, high-end geothermal pipes won’t be affected. They’re treated to prevent wear and tear caused by heat and radiation waves that tear through most pipes. This step takes the sun out of the equation.
- The pipes run through structures and aren’t typically exposed to the outside world. Once they emerge from the earth’s surface, geothermal pipes go through to the indoor source. If the structure is outside, the pipes usually connect underneath so they’re not exposed to the sun, wind, or weather patterns.
- The deeper you dig, the hotter it gets. Companies and power plants that need a lot of energy will dig hundreds of feet below the surface. In other words, they get their energy from the farthest point on earth from the sun. They dig deeper to increase the heat, contrary to what most of us believe.
As you can see, there’s no need for the sun’s warmth when you’re using geothermal energy. We need the sun for plenty of other activities (including almost all life on earth), but geothermal energy isn’t one of them.
If you want to know how the sun can alter geothermal energy, read on.
How Does the Sun’s Heat Affect Geothermal Sources?
National Geographic explains that, much like the sun, our planet’s heat comes from within. Some of it bursts out through volcanos, but most of the heat slowly seeps through the surface. Instead of letting it go to waste, we can take advantage of it. However, there are a few reasons that the sun can impact our use of geothermal power.
Poorly Installed Pipes Can Rupture
There aren’t too many companies willing to install geothermal systems yet. It’s a semi-new power source that’s making its way to residential neighborhoods.
Many countries use it for a small portion of their energy grid, but a lack of companies means that the bad ones sometimes make it. If they install sloppy pipes without insulation, they might decay and crack from the sun’s warmth and UV rays.
Geothermal Pipes Will Increase Their Heat and Pressure
We’ve all touched asphalt on a very warm day to feel like it’s as hot as the sun (or so we tell ourselves). On cold days, the sun doesn’t do much for the ground. However, on a hot summer afternoon, the sun can be hot enough to heat a few inches or feet below the earth’s surface. The good news is that this type of heat benefits geothermal pipes by increasing their heat and pressure.
Solar Power and Geothermal Can Be Used in Tandem
While using both solar energy and geothermal energy might not make much sense, it is a great tandem to use solar energy together with geothermal heating. You don’t have to choose one or the other. Using both renewable sources can reduce your environmental impact by taking advantage of the sunlight and the earth’s interior temperature. In fact, where I live, this is a common practice for buildings that aim to have very low or zero emissions.
The sun’s effects aren’t always negative. They can be used in tandem with geothermal energy. As long as the pipes are protected and properly installed, there’s no reason that the sun can ruin your geothermal system.
How to Keep Sunshine Out of the Geothermal Equation
Anyone who’s seen the seemingly endless supply of geothermal power has is surprised. However, you’ve seen how sunlight can impact geothermal sources. In most cases, it’s a safe bet. Whether you’re getting it for your home or business, the tips below can keep the sunshine out of the geothermal equation:
- Choose pre-insulated pipes (or insulate them before they’re installed). NCAT suggests that most pipes go in the ground without insulation. They’re designed to withstand the heat. The article mentions the useful nature of spray foam, pre-insulated pipes, and wrap-around insulation techniques, though.
- Keep the pipes indoors as much as possible. If you’re able to control the pipes’ direction, make sure that they’re not running above ground. When they’re going to heat pumps, air conditioner units, or energy grids, have them run indoors or underneath the ground.
- Examine mountains, hills, and other natural structures. These obstacles provide stability and depth, both of which are necessary for smooth operations. If you’re working from a high elevation, such as on top of a mountain, you’ll have hundreds or thousands of feet to run geothermal pipes.
- Plant grass over the covered geothermal pipes. Never plant trees or other deep-rooted plants over the area. Roots are known to tangle around pipes, causing breaks and other issues. Grass provides a thin layer of insulation and cosmetic benefits.
- Hire experts to map the area before the installation begins. Regardless of the location or intention, always get a team of professionals to inspect the ground. Roots, gas lines, water lines, and other obstacles can rupture pipes or get in the way. Stay ahead of the project!
There’s no doubt that geothermal energy will continue to get popular. It doesn’t require the sun for energy, it uses our earth’s natural resources, and there aren’t nearly as many carbon emissions as fossil fuels produce.
Here’s a recap of the post:
- Geothermal energy relies on the earth’s heat, not sunlight.
- Poor installations can expose pipes, leading to sun exposure.
- UV rays can damage low-budget geothermal systems.
- The ground is heated by the sun, which could indirectly benefit geothermal heating.
- You can prevent long-term damage by insulation the pipes and systems.
- Heat and pressure increase with depth.
If you liked this post, be sure to check “Can Geothermal Plants Be Built Anywhere?” & “Why Isn’t Geothermal Energy Used More Often?“