Even if you don’t know what geothermal heat is, hearing that anything is able to melt an asphalt road in Yellowstone National Park is pretty alarming. Last week, a road aptly named “Firehole Lake Drive” had to be closed down by park officials when hot air temperatures mixed with heat escaping from the ground (a.k.a. geothermal heat, which is naturally produced by the internal workings of the earth), and the combination of both heat sources began melting sections of the asphalt road.
This problem isn’t a new one for Yellowstone, but park officials are growing more concerned that the area could become increasingly dangerous for visitors due to a recent rise in ground heat. But as stories like this become more prevalent — as it seems they are likely to do — it’s important to note that there is another side of geothermal heat, and it actually holds many possibilities for alternative energy industries.
Geothermal energy has been appearing in news stories quite often, and the New York Times recently published an article in the “Green Column” section which discusses how geothermal energy could potentially become the next big energy resource. Even though it accounted for less than one percent of electric power globally last year, industry experts are hoping that new technology developments will allow the U.S. to take advantage of this “forgotten renewable” resource. Currently, the U.S. is joined by the Philippines, Indonesia, and Mexico as the leaders of geothermal energy usage, but many other regions are starting to show interest in geothermal resources.
And what’s more — geothermal heat deserves to be at the forefront of renewable energy discussions. Unlike solar power (which is only available during the day) and wind power (which fluctuates at random), geothermal energy is constant, and it is certain to be abundant in areas where there is significant plate movement in the Earth’s crust. In fact, professionals in the heating and cooling industry have already begun developing systems that run on geothermal heat and can be installed in individual homes and businesses.
“Geothermal heating and cooling is an excellent choice for energy independence and as a renewable energy option, because it’s consistently available year-round in virtually all climate zones, plus it is flexible enough for almost any application or house style too. All houses could potentially take advantage of geothermal heating and cooling, whereas not all houses are ideal for solar, and even less for wind,” said Tom Casey, Owner of Climate Partners.
Without a doubt, more research will be required before geothermal energy can be considered a viable alternative power source; the recent road-melting event in Yellowstone proves just how powerful geothermal heat can be. But rather than running away in fear of this resource, people around the world are beginning to see the potential it may hold.