A very promising geothermal energy usage is in agriculture, as this is an energy intensive sector. Many farmers in geothermal regions are now waking up to the vast potential of geothermal technologies.
Geothermal water is very useful for agriculture. A variety of agricultural applications use geothermal water directly, and they use it to warm greenhouses, to water and heat plants, and to dry crops. Another geothermal energy usage is in irrigation pipes, which can deliver hot water to ground that is otherwise cold. This means that crops can grow which could not normally grow on that land. Geothermal water can also be piped into greenhouses, which maintains humidity and keeps them warm.
To provide heat and water to crops, irrigation pipes are placed under the soil by farmers. If the temperature of the soil is maintained at 70 F or 21C, then trees and cool-weather root crops grow more abundantly and a lot faster. If geothermal water is used for irrigation, the plants can be saved from low temperature damage, and thus the growing season can be extended.
Geothermal energy usage in agriculture can also sterilize the soil, which eliminates fungus, pests, and various diseases that may damage crops. For this process to work best, the water must be very hot, and the steam from it must be applied to the soil directly. The way farmers do this is by either trapping the heat under a plastic sheet covering the crops or by using pipes underneath the soil to heat it.
Geothermal technologies in greenhouses can be used in several ways. These include finned pipes, plastic tubes, unit heaters, soil heaters, and finned coils. It is possible to combine these parts according to the temperature of the water and the grower’s preferences, taking the plants into consideration, of course. Greenhouses that are heated with geothermal are very useful in areas with an unreliable climate. Vegetable and plant production is much more efficient because of them, as the seeds germinate faster. There are also fewer losses for farmers because they can grow crops in more controlled conditions. This way farmers can make more precise commitments for crop deliveries.
Of course, there are also drawbacks to geothermal technologies in agriculture. The biggest one is, of course, the money factor. It can be very expensive to install equipment that will be used to pipe geothermal water into a farm or a greenhouse. It is also very time-consuming. In addition, geothermal energy is not available everywhere. It is impossible for many farming operations to even take advantage of it, either because there is none available in the region or because it is too hard to reach it.
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