Geothermal energy is the energy that is stored within the earth which is a result of the radioactive decay of materials and heat energy from the absorbed solar energy at the surface of the earth.
Shallow ground, hot water springs, rocks beneath a few miles of the earth’s surface and even deeper down high molten rocks called magma, are the resources of geothermal energy.
From these resources, geothermal systems that are used in different areas can be formed. They are Direct-use and district heating systems, Electricity generation power plants, and Geothermal heat pumps. In addition, geothermal energy is a treasure which can be used in a variety of areas like artificial thermoregulation, For food production, Electricity generation and industrial processes.
Food production is an area where geothermal energy can be well applied. In the present, the application of traditional ways has become a cause of decreasing the rate of food production. This may be due to climatic changes, resource usage, market fluctuations and change in food quality during food process and storage. With the application of geothermal energy, apart from following the traditional paths, this situation can be prevented. In this blog we are going on a journey through, how geothermal energy can be used in the area of food production, the benefits of going away from traditional paths and how geothermal energy can affect us in a negative way and steps that are taken against that.
How does geothermal energy enhance greenhouse farming?
Greenhouse farm is a method of controlling environmental factors so that it provides an optimal environment in order for plants to be well-grown. Perfect greenhouse cultivation requires heat, making it warmer than the outside environment. Solar energy can be used for this process. However, due to changes in weather and cloud density, limitations to radiation may occur which brings out the importance of introducing geothermal energy to greenhouse cultivation.
As geothermal energy is obtained from earthy resources, regardless of external weather conditions, it has the ability to provide stable and ideal temperatures for plant growth. From this method even in cold areas greenhouses can be well maintained. In addition, the humidity inside the greenhouse can be also controlled by some geothermal systems.
Other than that, when compared to other systems the operation costs are much less in geothermal systems as it is considered as a type of renewable energy. Also due to its clean and low emissions, it can reduce the carbon footprint of the greenhouse contributing to sustainability.
This allows for year-round crop production increasing yield and income for farmers.
Geothermal systems contribute low heat for greenhouses which consist of air systems, fluid systems, open-looped systems and closed-loop systems. When installing these geothermal systems, it’s important to consider the cons of the systems in order to prevent them. Cons consist of requiring geothermal resources which cannot be found everywhere, releasing greenhouse gasses which are trapped beneath the surface of the earth, surface instability and system maintenance. To face these cons, evaluation of the site on which the greenhouse is planned to install, monitoring and management of the site, and use of correct technology and grilling methods can be done.
How geothermal energy affects aquaculture?
Another way that geothermal energy can be used in food production is by taking part in fish farming which is a commercial way of breeding fish for food. This involves heating water to the optimum temperature for aquatic species, which can be dependent according to the species in the range of 13 to 30 degrees Celsius. The increasing rate of temperature results in increasing the growth and breeding rate. Normally by increasing the temperature of water bodies, the growth rate of fish species can be expanded by 50 to 100%.
Though heat can be obtained for aquaculture by making use of fossil fuels, solar energy, electric heaters or biomass, geothermal energy possess a special place in fish farming as it provides stable, constant and reliable heat which limits the stress on fish species and ensure their immunity which changes with temperature fluctuations. In addition not only to fish, it also provides safe fish farms with less exposure of fish farmers to greenhouse gasses, unharming the air quality when compared to the fish farms that rely on fossil fuels or any other harmful resources.
The application of geothermal energy also enhances cost-effectiveness as it is relatively low expenses and ensures fewer product losses. Besides it has low maintenance which reduces the operation costs and system downtime. Finally, it ensures the annual yields and incomes due to its effective nature.
However, due to geothermal energy usage in aquaculture, some difficulties may be faced which can be overcome by evaluating sites, proper management and maintenance and regular system checkups. These limitations are environmental impacts, geographical limitations and problems related to maintenance and repair.
Can geothermal energy be used for food processing and drying?
Drying of food is a preserving process in which the moisture is removed to avoid bacterial, fungal or microorganism activity on the food in order to prevent spoilage of food. Although solar energy, firewood or any electrical heater can be used for this process it takes much longer time to dry with a risk of being contaminated. On the other hand, the temperature not optimally maintained properly can affect the taste and the nutrient level of the food. Due to these reasons, farmers are more likely to rely on geothermal energy.
Geothermal energy can be used to prevent milk from getting spoiled. Milk is likely to be spoiled
due to enzymatic activity with the growth of microorganisms which can occur as a result of unhygienic production and storage under ambient temperatures. To prevent this high temperature treatments should be applied such as pasteurization or UHT methods. For these techniques, geothermal hot water or geothermal heat can be used.
In addition, heating and preheating processes on food can be applied with heating tanks such as twin shell heating tanks and internal spiral tube heating tanks.
For sugar, liquor processing and mint distillation, the evaporation and distillation method can be used with geothermal liquids or geothermal steam which operates at the required temperature of 80 to 120 degrees Celsius.
When considering the tinned fruits or vegetables, initially peeling off is done by directing them to a hot water bath which is operated by geothermal resources. Then this mechanically scrubbed-off or washed-off food is directed to blanching which prevents enzymatic or microbial activity and removes gas to soften and shrink the tissues. This process too requires high temperatures which should be maintained for some time. Geothermal water or steam is used in this process.
Geothermal energy, which is a kind of renewable energy, plays an important role in offering efficient and sustainable temperature control in applications such as greenhouse farming, aquaculture and food preservation and processing. Though it has some negative effects such as high cost, geographical limitations and system maintenance they can be prevented by regular checkups, site evaluations, careful planning and proper application of techniques.
Overall, geothermal energy can be considered as one of the successful natural energy sources involves in food production with less environmental impacts and resistance to weather changes which act an important role towards sustainability.