What is a Geothermal Engineer?
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Geothermal energy is an increasingly popular and rapidly expanding technology. Geothermal engineers explore new ways to harness and use this technology by creating processes and equipment that convert thermal energy stored in the earth into electrical power.
By using the heat that naturally radiates below the earth's surface and taking advantage of the fact that the temperature underground is always constant, geothermal technology can be used for both cooling in the summer and heating in the winter.
What does a Geothermal Engineer do?
Alternative energy sources such as geothermal have become even more important as we continue to push away from fossil fuels. Geothermal heat is created by decaying radioactive material, volcanic activity, and solar energy absorbed into the earth.
Geothermal energy can be used either directly or indirectly:
Directly - buildings and various other structures can use geothermal heat directly for their heating needs without pumps or power plants
Indirectly - geothermal heat can indirectly produce electricity and power a turbine from combining heat and water creating steam
Harnessing geothermal heat and power as a renewable energy source is the job of geothermal engineers. Geothermal engineers can obtain geothermal energy either by pumping cold water into a geothermal reservoir which allows the heat to turn the water into steam and return to the surface, or by getting it directly from the earth from natural geothermal reservoirs close to the surface.
These engineers usually work in teams experimenting, analyzing, and developing geothermal technology and drilling techniques, monitoring reservoirs and energy fields, and diagnosing and resolving any problems that may arise.
Geothermal engineers may also assist in the construction of geothermal plants by choosing the appropriate equipment for the facility, as well as assuring compliance with appropriate building and operating standards. Other geothermal engineers have supervisory roles, providing leadership, direction, and long term plans to plant operations staff.
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What is the workplace of a Geothermal Engineer like?
Geothermal engineers have daily interaction with other engineers, technicians, and technologists. Occasional meetings with energy policy planners may also take place. Geothermal engineers split their time between an office, laboratory, project site, and industrial manufacturing settings.
Most engineers work a standard 40-hour week, but can expect occasional evening, weekend, and holiday work to meet pressing needs. Geothermal engineers may also travel extensively due to a shortage of experienced engineers.
The geothermal gradient, which is the difference in temperature between the core of the planet and its surface, drives a continuous conduction of thermal energy in the form of heat from the core to the surface.
Geothermal energy is the natural heat of the earth. For centuries, geothermal heat has heated structures and natural hot springs, yet the first use of geothermal energy to generate electricity was not until the early 20th Century.