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Geothermal energy

Geothermal energy is heat stored in certain places under the ground. There are a few different ways of converting this heat into electricity, or just bringing up heat to warm the places we live.

This is a potential source of energy that Australia has in abundance.

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At relatively shallow depths, there is enough heat for a house. Here's a story from a young man who is now heating his home with geothermal power from the hot rocks under his farm. He loved the idea so much he's gone into busines.

Birdsville in western Queensland has the only geothermal power station in Australia. Each year it saves the town from burning 130 000 litres of diesel to make their electricity. 

It is particularly clever because it uses the hot bore water (89 degrees C) from underground. Some of that heat is used to make electricity, and then the cooled-down water is used for the town's water supply.

The Future Makers: Geothermal energy from the Cooper Basin in South Australia could provide energy for the whole of Australia! Watch video now

In other parts of the world, geothermal energy can be obtained from hot springs, geysers or from volcanic areas. While Australia doesn't have much of those, we do have big areas of hot granite rock.

Once such area is buried under Cooper Basin in the South Australian outback. This ancient layer of super-hot granite is the hottest non-volcanic rock in the world.

Could this be the key to unlocking Australia's renewable energy future?

Watch the video to the right to find out.

Hot Dry Rocks is a method of converting heat - up to 300 degrees C - into electricity. The heat is tapped into by drilling 3 - 5 kilometres below the surface of the earth.

Water is pumped down the holes and when it turns into steam it drives turbines to create electricity, which makes it a very clean source of energy with no greenhouse gas emissions.

The only problem is that the heat sources are a long way from where most people live. So it might need new sets of transmission lines. Or it could be used in inland Australia - perhaps for mining.

A former chief scientist says Australia could get up to half of its electricity from geothermal energy. Check out these links for more information.

Do you think Australia should use geothermal? How could we solve the distribution challenge?


The Competition
The competition

We asked Australian students to make a video or convince us in writing about their BIG ideas for a sustainable energy future.

Check out the fantastic videos we received, all about sustainable energy solutions!

For teachers

Explore the fascinating science edging us closer to low carbon living. This fun, flexible project includes easy-to-use ICT, oodles of resources and FREE lesson plans from CSIRO Education.

Links to Australian curriculum, plus NAPLAN rehearsal.

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