Exploring this Job
Find useful information about geothermal energy on the Department of Energy's "Geothermal" Web site, https://energy.gov/science-innovation/energy-sources/renewable-energy/geothermal. Professional associations can provide useful resources on geothermal education, careers, and industry trends. For example, the International Geothermal Association offers an overview of geothermal energy at https://www.geothermal-energy.org/explore/what-is-geothermal. Read industry publications such as Geothermal Energy–Science, Society and Technology (https://geothermal-energy-journal.springeropen.com) to learn more about trends in the field.
Another great way to learn more about the geothermal field is by taking a tour of a geothermal power plant. Your school's career services office can help you set up a tour if there is a geothermal power plant near you. Ask for help also with securing an informational interview with a geothermal technician.
You can also learn more about geothermal energy through the Web sites of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (https://energy.gov/eere/office-energy-efficiency-renewable-energy) and the U.S. Department of the Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey (https://www.usgs.gov).
Geothermal heat is created from the heat within the earth. It occurs in the deep layer of the earth and is then released on the earth's surface. Water heated from geothermal energy is tapped from its underground reservoirs and used to heat buildings, grow crops, or melt snow. This direct use of geothermal energy can also be used to generate electricity. Most water and steam reservoirs are located in the western United States. However, dry rock drilling, a deeper drilling into the earth’s magma, is an innovation that will eventually allow geothermal projects to be undertaken almost anywhere. Geothermal energy can help to reduce air pollution and also reduce energy costs for industries and homes.
Geothermal technicians operate and maintain geothermal power plants. They may also work on commercial or residential geothermal heating installations. They work as part of a team to install and test geothermal equipment, and monitor the operations to make sure they comply with industry regulations and standards. Geothermal technicians make sure that geothermal equipment in power plants is in continual operation by checking and adjusting electrical systems, instrumentation, or controls. They watch the gauges, dials, and other machine indicators to identify any malfunctions, and make immediate repairs when needed. They adjust the power production systems in accordance with the power plant load and distribution demands.
As geothermal technicians work, they also collect and record data related to the operating geothermal power plants and for commercial and residential geothermal installations. They keep track of the work they do by maintaining work logs, reports, and other documentation. The job requires strong mechanical knowledge as well as technological savvy. Geothermal technicians use analytical or scientific software for their work. The programs most popularly used include ClimateMaster GeoDesigner; Thermal Dynamics Ground Loop Design; and WaterFurnace International Ground Loop Design PREMIER, among others.