If you are looking for green energy options that aren’t expensive, geothermal energy may be the best option. But before you dive in and start using this renewable resource, it’s worth understanding a few key facts about this natural energy source.
Read on to learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of geothermal energy.
Why is geothermal energy not more widely used?
Geothermal energy is not as widespread as some of the other renewable sources of energy. The cost to access geothermal energy is expensive, and its limited availability makes it unprofitable to use.
Additionally, there are risks associated with drilling deep underground for thermal energy. It can cause instability on the earth’s surface and can even cause earthquakes due to colliding underground forces. Additionally, it can release greenhouse gases that are harmful to human health.
Geothermal energy is found beneath our feet, at a depth of about 4,000 miles. This energy is very high-temperature, at over 6,000degC or 10,800degF. Geothermal experts have described this heat as the “sun under our feet.”
The energy produced by geothermal fields is replenished every few billion years through the decay of radioactive elements. Consequently, the utilization factor is high, and geothermal energy can supply nearly 30 percent of the global electricity demand.
Geothermal systems that utilize fluids and do not use fracking can be used to generate electricity. These systems circulate in sealed boreholes or pipes and pick up heat via conduction and carry it to the surface.
These systems use this heat to generate a variable mix of electricity. Startups like Eavor have recently enhanced their systems with technology from the oil and gas industry. These companies have a high potential of generating electricity using geothermal energy.
What is geothermal energy?
Geothermal energy is energy produced by a natural process deep within the earth’s crust. Hot water that travels underground through looping pipes warms the fluid. The high temperature of the ground is constant at around 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
The warm fluid is carried into a home and converted into usable heat. This heat is used to heat the air that circulates in a building. The heat is used for a variety of purposes.
The geothermal resources are located mostly along the rims of major plate boundaries, such as the Pacific Plate. Geothermal activity is most common in regions that border active volcanoes and the Pacific Ocean. In fact, all the geothermal power plants in the U.S. are located on the western edge of the Ring of Fire.
Although geothermal energy is found almost anywhere on earth, some regions are more accessible than others. Geothermal energy is more accessible in regions that have natural hot water reservoirs and hot springs. However, it is more difficult to use geothermal energy on a large scale in less-developed regions.
When it comes to power generation, geothermal energy plants have two types of systems. A binary cycle power plant uses water at a lower temperature than the flash-steam power plant. The lower temperature of the hot water is used to heat a fluid that expands.
This fluid is then cooled and recycled. While geothermal energy sources are widespread around the world, the best known ones are in Hawaii and the western states. However, moderate-temperature resources are also present in the Dakotas, the Atlantic coast, and Arkansas.
Is geothermal energy expensive?
Despite its popularity, geothermal energy is still a costly endeavor. In the U.S., it costs approximately $2500 per installed kW, a cost that’s more than double that of conventional power plants.
The cost of the power plant and field construction is primarily a one-time expense. After that, operating and maintenance costs average about $0.01 cents per kilowatt-hour.
During peak production, these costs may reach as high as $0.03 cents per kilowatt-hour. However, these costs can be offset by the increased production of geothermal energy.
As for the costs, a geothermal power plant has high capital costs. A typical project requires drilling wells into the earth to tap the heat source. While the construction of geothermal power plants is expensive, the benefits far outweigh the costs.
Unlike other forms of power, geothermal power has no pollution emissions or greenhouse gases. Because geothermal heat comes from the earth, it will continue to produce heat for a long time.
Geothermal energy advantages and disadvantages
The advantages and disadvantages of geothermal energy are outlined below. The benefits of geothermal energy include not releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. There are some disadvantages, however, and there are many concerns with this technology.
While it is true that geothermal energy releases gases into the atmosphere, they are much smaller than those produced by fossil fuels. Still, this is not enough to convince many people to switch from fossil fuels.
The heat from geothermal plants requires much less land than that of other forms of energy, and there is no need to build dams or cut forests to produce this energy.
Furthermore, geothermal plants do not release CO2 into the atmosphere and can cancel out this effect by reinjecting water. The only disadvantages of geothermal energy include its low domestic enthalpy, and the risk of producing microorganisms.
Another advantage of geothermal energy is that it is always on. Unlike windmills, geothermal energy can supply power for buildings, even during cloudy or windy days. Additionally, the technology is relatively safe and does not produce noise pollution.
Another benefit of geothermal energy is that it can meet large-scale needs, such as melting ice from sidewalks or heating homes. As long as there is a sufficient supply of natural resources, geothermal energy can provide power to a large area. While it may require significant initial investment, geothermal plants have long-term benefits.
Is geothermal energy renewable?
Geothermal energy is a source of power, and can be harnessed to power electricity. High pressure water is extracted from deep within the earth and converted to steam, which is then used to turn a turbine and generate electricity. This steam is cooled and injected back into the ground, where it is naturally reheated.
There are a number of advantages to geothermal energy, including its ability to be renewable and low-cost. There are some disadvantages, though. It does release a small amount of carbon. On the other hand, geothermal power plants produce minimal emissions.
Although geothermal energy is not as plentiful as other renewable sources, it has been used for many years. In fact, its capacity increased by 27% in the last five years, supplying more than three thousand megawatts of thermal power to the global grid. In 2015, geothermal fields contributed 73,290 megawatts of electricity.
Geothermal fields can produce electricity at up to 95% efficiency. These are a significant benefit to both the environment and the economy.
Does geothermal energy cause pollution?
Geothermal energy produces low levels of pollution. Some emissions are harmful to the environment, however, such as sulfur dioxide. This gas is formed from a chemical reaction between carbon dioxide and water and contributes to acid rain, which damages lakes, forests and streams.
The good news is that geothermal power plants produce a relatively small amount of sulfur dioxide, less than one part in billion. That means they don’t need to install special controls. Even more good news is that 99.9 percent of all emissions are removed by treatment processes.
While the water from geothermal power plants can contain high levels of minerals, most geothermal facilities use closed-loop water systems. The water is pumped back into the geothermal reservoir after it has been used for heat or electricity production.
In addition, the water is contained in steel well casings cemented into the surrounding rock. So far, there have been no reports of water contamination from geothermal sites.
Geothermal energy environmental impact
While geothermal energy produces minimal emissions of pollutants like mercury, it is important to remember that the emissions can still cause damage to local ecosystems.
In addition to local environmental consequences, geothermal plants may alter wildlife habitats, reduce species diversity, and change community composition. Besides, they can lead to small risks of landslides and subsidence, which is why timely reclamation is critical to minimizing long-term costs and enhancing ecosystem recovery.
The use of geothermal energy is considered safer than fossil fuels. Its high efficiency means lower emissions, with geothermal power plants emitting minimal carbon dioxide or sulfur dioxide. This lowers the risk of pollution, which is particularly important for global warming.
The use of these technologies will help the human race continue to expand safely. So, geothermal energy is a wise choice for many reasons. This article will highlight some of the major benefits of geothermal energy.
The biggest difference between geothermal and conventional sources of electricity is the amount of greenhouse gases released. The emissions of open-loop geothermal power plants range from 0.1 to 0.1 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent per megawatt-hour.
On the other hand, closed-loop geothermal systems don’t emit greenhouse gases, but they still have emissions that come from infrastructure and construction. Moreover, geothermal systems require energy to pump water into hot rock reservoirs.
What is the biggest problem with geothermal energy
While geothermal energy can save us enormous amounts of energy, there are also some drawbacks to this method. For starters, geothermal energy sites are often located in remote areas and may not be accessible to the general population.
Large-scale geothermal production may also affect local economies and landscapes. While some developing countries have adopted strict ecological regulations, others have not. Environmental issues often overlap with land use issues.
Conventional geothermal systems are primarily used in areas with specialized climates, but can still be applied to more remote areas. The main disadvantage of geothermal energy is its relatively high upfront costs.
For example, drilling down into remote locations to access the thermal energy beneath can lead to surface instability and even earthquakes. However, geothermal power is a viable solution for long-term energy needs.
Another problem with geothermal energy is that it can cause issues with water quality. While geothermal systems are not known to produce air pollution, they do release steam, which is not healthy for the environment.
In addition, the waste fluid is likely to contain trace amounts of toxic elements and may contaminate drinking water and aquatic habitats. To solve this problem, geothermal systems should be properly insulated to minimize water pollution.