Geothermal energy is power harnessed from heat contained inside the Earth. We typically see this heat in the form of volcanoes, geysers, and natural hot springs. Geothermal energy is an abundant and renewable power source, however more research and development is needed. The best commercial use of geothermal energy is through heat pumps. Heat pumps can be used to harness earth’s heat to warm or cool a building.

Unfortunately, geothermal energy has many disadvantages. One drawback is that even though it is a renewable resource, geothermal energy takes a long time for it to be naturally replaced. For extraction of geothermal energy to be feasible, large reserves must be available. Reserves of geothermal energy may not be available everywhere. For example, the best location for geothermal energy in the U.S. is in the western portion of the country. Some environmental drawbacks to geothermal energy include the potential production of carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide emissions, toxic waste, and dissolved solids. Additionally, many of the large reserves of geothermal energy are located in wilderness areas.

The Service has used ground-source geothermal heat pump systems at these locations: Visitor Center at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge and the Prairie Learning Center at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge.