Geothermal: Tapping The Earth’s Heat for Energy

Geothermal power is not widely used in data centers. But as Iceland reaches out to the data center industry, the abundant supply of renewable energy is a key selling point. Geothermal power is used to heat nearly 90 percent of the homes in Iceland, which use water heated by the earth in their radiators. The island nation is also home to five major geothermal power plants, which produce about 26 percent of Iceland’s electricity. These pictures of the Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Station provide a look at how geothermal power is produced, and what the process looks like. Read more about Iceland’s power in the DCK story: Iceland’s Renewable Power Play.

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This long series of huge pipes carries hot water and steam from geothermal wells (known as boreholes) downhill to the Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Station.  (Photo: Colleen Miller)

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Steam pours from a muffler, an assembly atop a mountaintop borehole that taps the heat from the earth. The steam is harnessed and heads through a series of pipes to the power plant. The muffler serves to reduce – although not eliminate – the noise as the steam surges to the surface. (Photo: Colleen Miller)

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As the pipes arrive at the power plant, they enter these steam separators – equipment that separate the steam and liquid. After the moisture is removed from the steam, it goes to the turbine that produces electricity. (Photo: Colleen Miller)

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The exterior of the Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Station, which was built in 1987, expanded in three phases and now produces 120 megawatts of geothermal energy. (Photo: Colleen Miller)