Right now, our world is in dire need to find alternative sources of energy. Sure, fossil fuels — the source that we’ve been relying on for years now — provide us with enough energy. But they are easily depleted as well as incredibly damaging to our environment. And if we really want to help save our planet, then that means we must stop using fossil fuels as soon as possible. Luckily for us, there are actually a lot of alternative sources lying all around us. And two of these alternative sources are solar energy and geothermal energy.
Solar Energy and Geothermal Energy: What Is the Difference?
Out of all the renewable sources of energy out there, solar energy is arguably the most popular. The solar industry itself is thriving with so many companies that sell solar products like solar panels and solar shingles on the rise. Solar podcasts even exist — thus proving that the solar industry is currently booming. But first and foremost, what exactly is solar energy all about?
The definition of solar energy is actually pretty straightforward. It simply means that it makes use of the sun — either the light or the heat or both — in order to generate electricity. However, even though that definition seems simple and straightforward, the actual process of how solar energy works is definitely not.
Solar energy uses two kinds of technologies. The first technology is the Concentrated Solar Thermal (CSP), and basically, this uses the sun’s heat to heat a liquid that will then drive a heat engine and drive an electric generator. Meanwhile, the second technology is the Photovoltaic (PV), which is the more common option. PV essentially uses cells to absorb sunlight and knock an electron loose, thus causing the loose electrons to flow and creating a current that is captured and transferred to wires.
Whichever technologies you choose, solar energy can power your household, particularly your heating and cooling system.
Whereas solar energy makes use of the sun to generate energy, geothermal energy makes use of the heat that is trapped deep in the center of the earth. The magma buried deep down of our soil is as hot as the sun’s surface, and some of that heat manages to escape outward. When that happens, we can harness that said heat for energy.
Just like solar energy, there are two ways to capture and use geothermal energy. The first is through geothermal power plants that drill wells several miles into the earth where temperatures are very high. These underground water reservoirs will produce steam, which causes the turbines to spin to generate electricity.
The second way to capture geothermal energy is through a geothermal heat pump. This also necessitates drilling a well, but only for a few feet below the earth’s surface instead of a few miles. At these depths, the temperature in the ground is constant, usually around 50?.
Geothermal energy can’t really be used to offset electricity use. But it is still valuable considering that it can power your heating and cooling system pretty well.
Compared to “PV vs. CSP” discussion, “Solar energy vs geothermal energy” is the less discussed topic. Solar energy and geothermal energy are two of the most common renewable sources of energy. In a way, these two are similar in that they share the same goal: to generate electricity. But the primary difference between them is the way they achieve that goal.
On the one hand, solar energy uses the sun. But on the other, geothermal energy uses the heat trapped within the earth. In other words, they have different sources of where they get their energy from.
Despite their differences, both solar energy and geothermal energy are actually beneficial to our world. That is why, as much as possible, we should start using them both, as well as the other renewable sources of energy. It’s highly crucial so as to help save our environment.
By Rikki Suarez
Rikki Suarez majors in Creative Writing and is writing right now about renewable energy, clean technology, and solar power for SolarMetric.com.