What are Geothermal Wells?

Mary McMahon

Geothermal wells are wells which tap into the natural geothermal energy found beneath the Earth's crust. There are a number of different types which can be utilized in various ways, ranging from wells which connect to sources of steam which can be used to power turbines to wells utilized in geothermal heat pumps, which maintain stable indoor temperatures with the use of a recirculating water system. Most of the world's geothermal wells are found in areas of increased geological activity.

Some geothermal wells are connected to power plants that use the transfer of heat to generate electricity.
Some geothermal wells are connected to power plants that use the transfer of heat to generate electricity.

While the surface of the Earth can get quite cold at times, the area beneath the Earth's crust has a relatively stable temperature, and it is usually very hot. Geothermal energy utilizes this heat to generate electricity and to provide heating for various structures. The energy can either be used directly, in the form of geothermal wells which connect to sources of water and steam heated by the Earth, or indirectly, in the case of systems which pump water through hot regions under the Earth's crust.

Geothermal wells can create electricity that powers electrical grids.
Geothermal wells can create electricity that powers electrical grids.

Like other types of wells, geothermal wells are created by drilling into the Earth's surface and then sinking in well rings to keep the hole from collapsing. Production wells are geothermal wells which connect to sources of geothermal energy, while injection wells are designed to force water underground for the purpose of maintaining a steady supply of water in the geothermal system.

Some wells connect to geothermal power plants, which use the heated water to power turbines, or to transfer heat to other substances which can be used to generate energy. Power plants can feed their energy into the electrical grid, or generate power for a factory, school, or other large institution. One of the advantages to geothermal power is that it is renewable, making geothermal power plants popular in areas where people are concerned about sustainable energy.

Other geothermal wells are designed for use in heating systems. These wells connect with integrated heated and cooling systems, circulating warm water through a building in the winter to warm it up, and pulling heat out of a building in the summer so that it will cool down. These systems often utilize what are known as closed loop wells, which involve scores of wells sunk into the Earth and lined with sealed tubes which push water into and back out of the Earth in a continuous, closed system which is used to maintain the desired indoor temperature.

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Discussion Comments


Generation GreenUSA is using closed end wells in steam engine systems.


@ FIorite- Thanks for the info. I made an offer on the property, and I am talking to my tax preparer about the different energy efficient rebates and credits available. If I buy the property, I think I will install the geothermal well if the cost benefit analysis works out. I have a feeling it will since we have very cold winters here in Wyoming.


@ Submariner- Your friend was right about the great tax benefits of installing geothermal heat pump wells. If you go to the department of energy website, click on "for consumers", then click on "tax breaks' you can find all the information on energy efficiency, conservation, and alternative energy tax breaks.

The tax breaks for geothermal are lumped in with tax breaks for residential solar and wind. The tax break is equivalent to 30% of the installed cost and there is no cap on the incentive. You also have about five or six years to complete the job since the credit doesn't expire until December 31, 2016. As long as the install is done by that date, you qualify for the credit.


I am looking at buying an apartment building, and I want to remodel the property to be a more ecofriendly building. I am hoping to remodel the place into a healthier living area for both tenants and the environment. To be honest, I also like the type of tenants that green buildings attract as well.

Anyway, I have been looking on ways to reduce heating and cooling for the building, and a friend told me about closed loop geothermal wells. He explained how they work and he told me that I could get a big tax credit for installing one. Does anyone know what types of tax credits are offered for geothermal wells and when they expire? If you can also point me in the right direction as to getting detailed information about these credits I would appreciate it. By the way, thanks for the great article.

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