Applications of Geothermal Energy for Agriculture
Geothermal energy is as old as the Earth, and people have been using it for more than 10,000 years. Evidence shows that Paleo-Indians were the first humans to use this energy from hot springs for cleaning and warmth. In the present day, individuals have found various uses for geothermal energy.
One industry that finds it particularly useful is agriculture. Farmers can find many uses for this renewable energy, from geothermal water to greenhouses. Here are some of the ways this sector is using geothermal.
Why Do People Use Geothermal Energy?
Geothermal energy has become a widespread power source because it’s renewable. It’s obtained from magma found beneath the Earth’s crust. The heat coming from the core has been around since the beginning of the planet and will not run out. The core heats the magma, and the decay of radioactive elements also contributes to this thermal energy.
In addition to its renewability, geothermal energy is a prominent energy source worldwide because it’s inexpensive and the costs remain stable. Geothermal heat pumps can reduce energy expenses by about 60% compared to typical power sources. On the international markets, oil and gas prices rise and fall daily and can become volatile when crises occur, such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Geothermal doesn’t have the same ties to international affairs, so prices are unaffected.
Farmers find geothermal power effective because it’s much cheaper than fuel, and cleaner energy is also better for the environment because it lessens their carbon footprint. Geothermal makes crop production and processing much better for farmers and consumers.
How Do Greenhouses Use Geothermal Energy?
Greenhouses are one of the most prominent uses of geothermal energy in agriculture. These structures protect plants by keeping them at a proper temperature all year, protecting them from harsh cold and hot weather. Farmers use geothermal energy to heat them and can use geothermal water in the pipes to adjust humidity levels if needed. This power source helps crops grow faster and be more reliable.
One can find examples worldwide of geothermal energy in greenhouses. In Kenya, a company called Oserien has used this renewable energy for flower production since 2003. In Fujian, a province in Southeast China, mushroom farmers use geothermal energy to grow their crops, and the cultivation time is shorter than typical methods for shiitake mushrooms. In each case, the growers found that geothermal energy was better for crop production because of the ability to control the greenhouse’s temperature and make the processes more efficient.
How Can Growers Use Geothermal Energy in Fields?
Farmers find numerous benefits of geothermal energy in greenhouses and can use it in their crops in the open fields. They can use geothermal water to regulate the soil’s temperature, keeping it warm and protecting it from cold weather. Farmers can install underground pipes and transport this water for irrigation purposes.
Farmers who use geothermal water can extend the growing season, producing more crops and increasing profits. One issue these growers may find is pests and unwanted fungi around their plants. The geothermal water is hot enough to sterilize the soil, killing these unwanted intruders.
Can Farmers Use Geothermal Energy to Dry Crops?
A third use of geothermal energy in agriculture is drying crops. Farmers can use the heat produced to remove moisture from a plant if needed. This extends the amount of time a farmer can store it without worrying about degradation.
In Iceland, people have been using geothermal heat to dry seaweed since 1939. In Kenya, farmers use geothermal drying on grains like corn. This method of drying is more cost-effective and improves the product’s quality. These corn farmers have found geothermal drying is a more eco-friendly process because it can reduce their carbon footprint by 95% compared to oil-powered dryers.
A Cleaner Future for Agriculture
The effects of climate change are starting to become apparent, so many industries worldwide are looking to become more environmentally conscious. A significant change would be switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy. An example of this change is the agricultural industry’s transition to geothermal energy. It’s cheaper, more abundant worldwide, and stable for farms of all sizes to use for drying crops and in fields and greenhouses.
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