Chapter 11: Geothermal Energy

Geothermal Energy has been around for as long as the Earth has existed. "Geo" means earth, and "thermal" means heat. So, geothermal means earth-heat.

Have you ever cut a boiled egg in half? The egg is similar to how the earth looks like inside. The yellow yolk of the egg is like the core of the earth. The white part is the mantle of the earth. And the thin shell of the egg, that would have surrounded the boiled egg if you didn't peel it off, is like the earth's crust.

Below the crust of the earth, the top layer of the mantle is a hot liquid rock called magma. The crust of the earth floats on this liquid magma mantle. When magma breaks through the surface of the earth in a volcano, it is called lava.


For every 100 meters you go below ground, the temperature of the rock increases about 3 degrees Celsius. Or for every 328 feet below ground, the temperature increases 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit. So, if you went about 10,000 feet below ground, the temperature of the rock would be hot enough to boil water.

Deep under the surface, water sometimes makes its way close to the hot rock and turns into boiling hot water or into steam. The hot water can reach temperatures of more than 300 degrees Fahrenheit (148 degrees Celsius). This is hotter than boiling water (212 degrees F / 100 degrees C). It doesn't turn into steam because it is not in contact with the air.


When this hot water comes up through a crack in the earth, we call it a hot spring, like Emerald Pool at Yellowstone National Park pictured on the left. Or, it sometimes explodes into the air as a geyser, like Old Faithful Geyser pictured on the right.

About 10,000 years ago, Paleo-Indians used hot springs in North American for cooking. Areas around hot springs were neutral zones. Warriors of fighting tribes would bathe together in peace. Every major hot spring in the United States can be associated with Native American tribes. California hot springs, like at the Geysers in the Napa area, were important and sacred areas to tribes from that area.

In other places around the world, people used hot springs for rest and relaxation. The ancient Romans built elaborate buildings to enjoy hot baths, and the Japanese have enjoyed natural hot springs for centuries.

 Geothermal Today
 Geothermal Electricity
 Geothermal / Ground Source Heat Pumps

Learn about Hydro Power in the next chapter.

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