Geothermal energy is somewhat of an unknown entity in the in the average person's knowledge of alternative power sources. For a brief language lesson, Geothermal from the Greek words "Geo" and "theme" means earth heat. The interior of the earth is made of molten rock and what geothermal energy does is capture the heat under the earth crust to create a power source.

Picture the centre of the earth. It is so hot that it can melt rock quite easily. As you go down into the Earth's crust, the temperature gets higher and higher. It is estimated that for approximately every forty yards the temperature rises about thirty four degrees Fahrenheit. What happens is that the heated rocks below the Earth's surface heat up water to create steam. Holes are then drilled into these specific geothermal regions so that the steam can escape.

During the process, the geothermal power station drills the holes and creates an injection well where cold water is pumped down. This cold water filters through the rocks and pressure is used for the water to flow back-up.

Once the hot water reaches the surface, it turns into steam, which is then harnessed for power. The steam is cleansed and filtered and then used to power turbines, which in turn provide an electric power source .When a power station harnesses geothermal power in the correct manner, there are no by-products which are harmful to the environment.

There is also no consumption of any type of fossil fuels. In addition, geothermal energy does not output any type of greenhouse effect. After the construction of a geothermal power plant, there is little maintenance to contend with. In terms of energy consumption, a geothermal power plant is self sufficient. Geothermal power plants do not have to be huge which is good for protecting the natural environment. There are however several concerns about geothermal energy.

The questions that are usually asked during the survey are: Is the rock soft enough to drill through?; Do the rocks deep down contain sufficient heat?; Will this heat be sustainable for a significant amount of time?; Is the environment fit for a power plant?

If the answers to these questions are all yes, a more in-depth survey goes ahead.

A big disadvantage of geothermal energy extraction is that in many cases, a site that has been extracting steam and turning it into power for many years may suddenly stop producing steam and you never know when this is going to happen Developers must be careful and aware that in some cases, harmful gases can escape from deep within the earth through the holes drilled by the constructors. The plant must be able to contain any leakage, as disposing of the gas safely can be a very tricky task.

Substances water released from geothermal cooling towers contain dissolved toxic compounds and such as boron, arsenic and mercury and if not properly controlled may pollute streams, rivers and lakes. Emissions can be reduced into sludge, high in sulphur and heavy metals, resulting in difficulty with disposal. It is of paramount importance to ensure that holes are properly drilled to avoid potentially harmful minerals and gases escaping as these hazardous materials are almost impossible to get rid of and pollution will definitely result.

One can only hope and pray that the Government has not rushed too quickly into this undertaking, but has examined it carefully, as it claims to have done, and taken all necessary measures and precautions to ensure that the environment remains free of pollution and contamination.

heaven help the future generations if the Government fails to take significant heed of the warnings. They cannot say they were not aware of the potential disaster. This is one calamity they will not be able to fix by refunding.

D.A. Corriette