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How a Geothermal Power Plant Works

Geothermal Technologies Program, US Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

This simplified animation of a geothermal power plant from the U.S. Department of Energy illustrates commonalities with traditional power-generating stations. While there are many types of geothermal power plants, this animation shows a generic plant.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Animation supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 4 Cross Cutting Concepts
High School: 3 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 3 Cross Cutting Concepts

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

About Teaching the Guiding Principle
Other materials addressing GPe

Energy Literacy

The energy of a system or object that results in its temperature is called thermal energy.
Other materials addressing:
1.2 Thermal energy.
Humans transfer and transform energy from the environment into forms useful for human endeavors.
Other materials addressing:
4.1 Humans transfer and transform energy.
Sunlight, gravitational potential, decay of radioactive isotopes, and rotation of the Earth are the major sources of energy driving physical processes on Earth.
Other materials addressing:
2.2 Sources of energy on Earth.

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • The educator should point out that geothermal power plants use many of the same components as more conventional power plants, including turbines, generators, transformers, and other standard power-generating equipment.
  • A related website from Google Earth on Enhanced Geothermal provides a way of viewing locations that are favorable to geothermal generation: http://www.google.org/egs/

About the Science

  • A simple animation that shows a geothermal well, turbine, generator, and transmission.
  • Explanatory text is below each segment of the animation.
  • Passed initial science review - expert science review pending.

About the Pedagogy

  • This animation is introductory material and not a comprehensive coverage of the topic.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • A text version of the animation is available.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Animation supports:

Middle School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 1

MS-PS3.B3:Energy is spontaneously transferred out of hotter regions or objects and into colder ones.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 4

Systems and System Models, Energy and Matter


MS-C5.2: Within a natural or designed system, the transfer of energy drives the motion and/or cycling of matter.

MS-C5.3:Energy may take different forms (e.g. energy in fields, thermal energy, energy of motion).

MS-C5.4:The transfer of energy can be tracked as energy flows through a designed or natural system.

High School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 3

HS-PS3.B2:Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but it can be transported from one place to another and transferred between systems

HS-PS3.B4:The availability of energy limits what can occur in any system.

HS-PS3.D1:Although energy cannot be destroyed, it can be converted to less useful forms—for example, to thermal energy in the surrounding environment.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 3

Systems and System Models, Energy and Matter


HS-C5.2:Changes of energy and matter in a system can be described in terms of energy and matter flows into, out of, and within that system.

HS-C5.3:Energy cannot be created or destroyed—only moves between one place and another place, between objects and/or fields, or between systems.

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