Geothermal energy is produced by tapping into the thermal energy created and stored within the earth. It arises from the radioactive decay of an isotope of potassium and other elements found in the Earth's crust.[144] Geothermal energy can be obtained by drilling into the ground, very similar to oil exploration, and then it is carried by a heat-transfer fluid (e.g. water, brine or steam).[144] Geothermal systems that are mainly dominated by water have the potential to provide greater benefits to the system and will generate more power.[145] Within these liquid-dominated systems, there are possible concerns of subsidence and contamination of ground-water resources. Therefore, protection of ground-water resources is necessary in these systems. This means that careful reservoir production and engineering is necessary in liquid-dominated geothermal reservoir systems.[145] Geothermal energy is considered sustainable because that thermal energy is constantly replenished.[146] However, the science of geothermal energy generation is still young and developing economic viability. Several entities, such as the National Renewable Energy Laboratory[147] and Sandia National Laboratories[148] are conducting research toward the goal of establishing a proven science around geothermal energy. The International Centre for Geothermal Research (IGC), a German geosciences research organization, is largely focused on geothermal energy development research.[149]
Single small turbines below 100 kilowatts are used for homes, telecommunications dishes, or water pumping. Small turbines are sometimes used in connection with diesel generators, batteries, and photovoltaic systems. These systems are called hybrid wind systems and are typically used in remote, off-grid locations where a connection to the utility grid is not available.
Small-scale turbines are expensive (one manufacturer says a typical system costs $40,000 to $60,000 to install), though some of that outlay can be offset by federal and local tax credits. Experts recommend that you buy one certified by the Small Wind Certification Council. Turbine manufacturers include Bergey Wind Power, Britwind and Xzeres Wind; look on their websites for local dealers.
As the cost of solar electricity has fallen, the number of grid-connected solar PV systems has grown into the millions and utility-scale solar power stations with hundreds of megawatts are being built. Solar PV is rapidly becoming an inexpensive, low-carbon technology to harness renewable energy from the Sun. The current largest photovoltaic power station in the world is the 850 MW Longyangxia Dam Solar Park, in Qinghai, China.
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