Geothermal Energy Advantages and Disadvantages – Pros and Cons

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Does geothermal have more positives than negatives?

Page Contents

Geothermal energy facts – advantages and disadvantages

  • Geothermal Advantages

  • 100% renewable natural resource
  • Low carbon footprint – 38 gms CO2/kWh
  • 100% availability – constant & reliable
  • Adaptable – industrial or domestic use
  • Can generate electricity
  • Can be used for space heating buildings
  • Geothermal Disadvantages

  • Deep drilling needed for high temperatures
  • High investment for extraction machinery
  • Can release of greenhouse gases
  • Can release toxic gases
  • Possibility of destabilizing surface
  • Is location dependent

 

What is geothermal energy?

The phrase geothermal is from the Greek terms geo (Earth) and (Therme), meaning heat. The natural heat contained inside the Earth’s crust is geothermal energy.

The energy manifests itself in the Earth’s crust as fumaroles, hot springs, and heat-altered ground. To collect and convert it into energy, wells are dug at depths of between 1-3KM to access steam and water at elevated temperatures of  (250-350C) and pressure (600-1200 PSI).

To produce electricity steam is fed to a turbine, which turns a generator to generate electrical energy. Geothermal energy can also be used at lower temperatures to heat buildings using heat pumps.

Video – Advantages and Disadvantages of Geothermal Energy | Pros and Cons

 

What are the pros and cons of geothermal heating?

Geothermal is renewable and sustainable

Geothermal reservoirs are refilled spontaneously and thus are derived from natural resources. As a result, we can classify geothermal energy as a renewable power source. This is by far the biggest advantage of this form of energy.

“Sustainable” is just another name for renewable energy sources. Unlike traditional energy sources such as coal and fossil fuels, geothermal power is a resource that can sustain at almost any rate of consumption.

Scientists estimate that the energy in our geothermal reserves will endure billions of years. However, excellent geothermal reservoirs are challenging to find. Some nations are endowed with abundant resources; for example, the Philippines and Iceland use geothermal energy to power roughly one-third of their electrical needs.

Significant energy losses must be considered when transporting geothermal energy over large distances using hot water. However, the same case does not apply when it comes to transporting electricity.

Is geothermal energy inexpensive or expensive?

Geothermal energy is a costly resource to extract. A plant producing 1 megawatt is valued at around $2 and $7 million. Although initial expenses are considerably high, they can be recouped over time as part of a more significant investment.

In comparison to alternative renewable sources like solar power and wind energy, geothermal provides a consistent energy stream. That’s because, unlike solar or wind energy, the resource is readily accessible to be used. Its overall low cost over time is because it is a truly renewable source of energy.

Geothermal power generate electricity

Generating clean electric power is one advantage of geothermal power plants

Geothermal advantages and disadvantages – The Environment

Compared to fossil-fuel power plants, geothermal energy has a low environmental impact. Geothermal power plants are a sustainable form of renewable energy and ecologically friendly power if they are correctly sited and developed. Sustainable means that the natural resource replenishes itself faster than mankind can use it.

The construction of geothermal power facilities can have an adverse effect on ground stability, which is a crucial disadvantage of geothermal energy. For instance, in both Germany and New Zealand, geothermal energy facilities have caused the land to sink.

Hydraulic fracturing, which is a necessary aspect of developing an enhanced geothermal system, can cause seismic events.

Is geothermal good for the environment?

Geothermal power is much less harmful to the environment than traditional fuels like fossil fuels such as coal. Furthermore, a geothermal power station has a smaller carbon footprint. While geothermal power does produce some pollutants, it is comparatively tiny compared to fossil fuels.

Does geothermal energy cause pollution?

Geothermal power facilities can meet the most demanding clean air regulations. They produce minimal CO2, minimal sulfur dioxide, and no nitrogen oxides. When geothermal power facilities generate gases, most of them are carbon dioxide, which is a greenhouse gas rather than a pollutant.

Geothermal power stations, on the other hand, emit far less carbon dioxide than fossil-fuel power plants.

Methane is yet another major greenhouse gas released by geothermal systems. However, it’s natural gas with low levels of emissions. Geothermal plants’ methane emissions are several orders of magnitude lower than coal or natural gas emissions.

In terms of NO2 emissions and particulate matter, geothermal plants produce such tiny quantities that they are insignificant compared to other energy sources.

The most dangerous contaminant for geothermal energy facilities is hydrogen sulfide. Installing Hydrogen Sulfide Abatement Systems that could eliminate up to 99.9% of hydrogen sulfide that is otherwise be discharged into the atmosphere is one-way geothermal power facilities avoid this problem.

Geothermal dry-steam power facilities are projected to produce approximately 0.0002 lbs/MWh of H2S, compared to 0.35 lbs/MWh for flash power stations.

Geothermal power plant advantages and disadvantages – Electricity and Heat

Geothermal power plants convert geothermal energy to produce power. They operate similarly to coal and nuclear power stations, except for the heat source. The Earth’s warmth substitutes the boiler of a coal power plant or the reactor of a nuclear plant in geothermal power.

How do geothermal power stations work?

Wells drilled 1 or 2 miles down into the Ground to convey steam or hot water to the surface at a geothermal power plant. As these are sites where the Earth is very hot, close beneath the surface, you’re more likely to locate one of these power plants in an area with many hot springs, geysers, or volcanic activity.

How  Geothermal Works

  1. Under high pressure, hot water is pumped from deep underground through a well.
  2. Once the water level rises, the pressure drops; water condenses and turns into steam.
  3. The vapor rotates a turbine connected to an electrical generator.
  4. In a cooling tower, the steam cools down back into a liquid.
  5. Cooled water will flow back into the Ground, restarting the process.

Are geothermal generating plants cheaper than fossil fuel generators?

Geothermal power plants necessitate a substantial investment. Even though they have low running costs, geothermal plants are more expensive to build than coal, oil, or gas facilities.

The discovery and drilling of geothermal energy resources account for a lot of the costs. Investigation and drilling are not required for conventional power plants. Furthermore, geothermal power plants necessitate specifically designed heating and cooling systems and other high-temperature-resistant equipment.

In comparison to conventional power plants, geothermal systems, on the other hand, require significantly less maintenance. As a result, they are dependable and cost-effective to operate. It’s a source that is both renewable and long-term. Unlike non-renewable energy sources, geothermal power will never run out.

Infographic – Pros and Cons of Using Geothermal Energy

Geothermal Energy Pros and Cons Infographic

Geothermal Energy Disadvantages and Advantages PDF download

What are the major drawbacks of geothermal energy?

High Initial Investments & Other Financial Issues

The initial expenditures of geothermal energy are one of the main reasons behind its delayed acceptance. While it is true that using geothermal energy will reduce costs in the long run, few homeowners are willing to make the significant investment necessary to heat a home with geothermal.

Besides the high upfront costs, there are other drawbacks to be aware of before considering whether geothermal energy is right for you. Namely, concerns about the environment

Environmental Impact

The adverse environmental effects of geothermal energy are minor compared to many other energy sources, but they do exist in the form of greenhouse gases, pollutants and geological impacts.

Issues with Sustainability if Reservoirs aren’t Managed Properly

Rainwater permeates through the ground and inside geothermal reservoirs since the Earth’s outermost layers is permeable. According to scientific research, reservoirs can sometimes be exhausted if water is lost quicker than supply.

After the turbines create energy, water should be re-injected into the reservoir periodically to maintain the geothermal installation long-term sustainability.

Is geothermal energy sustainable for the future?

Geothermal energy is not a novel concept. People have relied on natural heat from inside the soil from earlier civilizations. However, geothermal extraction technology has lately evolved significantly.

Today, certain nations, such as Iceland, rely heavily on geothermal energy to meet their energy needs. It delivers about 0.4% of the total power generation scale in the U.S.

Residential homes, towns in the United States, and worldwide are beginning to use more geothermal as technology improves. People seek methods to reduce their carbon footprints and energy expenses.

It’s certainly an energy source to consider for future home sustainability since it is greener, renewable, and practical, all of which are desirable qualities for a better energy future.

What is the carbon footprint of a geothermal plant?

Of all energy sources, geothermal energy has the 6th  lowest carbon impact. On a lifecycle basis, geothermal power emits 38 grams of Carbon dioxide per kWh produced.

It helps to battle climate change, offers a variety of environmental advantages, and emits very little greenhouse gas. Geothermal energy accounts for an ever-increasing percentage of overall energy use and has a range of environmental effects.

Table – Benefits and drawbacks of geothermal power

Geothermal Advantages (Pros/benefits)

Geothermal Disdavantages (drawbacks/cons)

Low running costs once established

High installation & surveying costs (investment)

Low carbon footprint (38 gms CO2/kWh)

Machines needed to extract and convert heat

Low ecological impact

Above machines made by fossil fuel energy

Renewable and sustainable

Can cause minor earthquakes

Generate electricity cleanly

Location dependent to some extent

Heat buildings directly

Deep drilling needed for high temperature plant (higher temp. = higher efficiency)

Flexible agricultural use 

Possible release of greenhouse and toxic gases

Geothermal energy pros and cons for home use – Heat Pumps

There are several advantages of using geothermal energy from geysers and other subsurface sources. It is sustainable and may be generated on a massive scale. But first, consider the benefits of geothermal power for your home.

Once you install a geothermal heat pump in your house, you get a heating/cooling system with these advantages:

  • Reliable

Geothermal systems are dependable. They contain more minor moving components than most alternate energy solutions and may include backup equipment and even computer-based management for more accurate functioning.

  • Clean

Geothermal units do not produce greenhouse emissions. There is no carbon dioxide discharged into the biosphere by home-based geothermal systems.

  • Renewable

A geothermal system generates virtually renewable energy. You must consume some electricity from the grid or another source to power the system, although this is a very minimal amount.

  • Less reliant on resources

When it comes to the effects on the energy grid, geothermal HVAC equipment outperforms solar and wind power. Furthermore, the environmental effect of geothermal systems is frequently less than that of solar panels or wind turbines.

  • Long-lasting

Geothermal HVAC units have a long-life expectancy. The system is only partially exposed to factors that might lead to corrosion or other wear and tear. The majority of the system is located indoors or underground.

  • Economical

When compared to buying energy to heat and cool your house using traditional heaters or air conditioners, you’ll end up saving 30 to 60% on heating expenditures and 20 to 50% on heating and cooling bills. Furthermore, federal tax rebates are offered to homes that install approved geothermal heat pumps.

Geothermal home heating by heat pump

The biggest disadvantage of a ground source heat pump installation is the cost

Is geothermal worth it for home?

If you’re genuinely considering sustainable energy sources, geothermal power is among the most adaptable.  Installation could save households close to 50% on their monthly heating /cooling expenditures.

It’s a good investment that will result in extensive savings whilst maintaining your house pleasant throughout the year. Heating/cooling residential and commercial buildings in the United States account for around 11 % of total carbon dioxide emissions.

How does geothermal home heating work?

Geothermal heating/cooling units operate very differently from standard furnaces. A furnace generates heat by burning fuel, but a geothermal heat pump transfers heat between water, the ground source, and the air to heat the residence.

Since the temperature underneath the Earth is a constant all year round at roughly 50 to 60 degrees, it may be used as a heating element.

The fluid inside the earth loop takes heat from the Earth and cycles it to the heat pump’s heat exchanger, exchanging heat from the liquid to the air.

The geothermal cooling process is similar to an air conditioning unit or an air-source heat pump. Heat is transferred from the air within the house and transferred to the outside.  Whereas air conditioners and air-source heat pumps dissipate warmth into the surrounding air, a geothermal heat pump absorbs heat from the Earth. Depending on the loop, it emits heat underground or into a body of water.

How does a ground source heat pump work?

A ground source heat pump consists of both a floor loop (a system of subterranean water pipes) and a heat pump at floor level. A solution of water and coolant is circulated around the floor loop, absorbing naturally present heat contained in the Earth.

The compacted water mixture is routed via a heat exchanger, removing heat and transmitting it to the heat pump. After that, the warmth is delivered to your house heating system.

Related Questions:

What are some advantages and disadvantages of biomass energy?

Some advantages of Biomass:

1. It Is Renewable

Renewable energy sources may be regenerated even after they’ve been used. It is an entirely renewable source since many biomass fuels can grow like plants and wood.

It is a source of fuel that can transcend conventional fossil fuels,  provided that efforts are made to sustain the resources utilized for biomass energy via deliberate replanting and restocking.

2. Climate Neutrality

The amount of carbon released into the atmosphere has a significant role in climate change. Biomass minimizes this because it is a natural element of the carbon cycle, unlike oil and other fossil fuels. The only carbon released into the atmosphere from biomass fuels is what was absorbed by the plants during their lifecycles.

3. Less Dependency on Fossil Fuels

The more biomass energy we consume, the less we rely on fossil fuels, which are significant factors causing climate change and other environmental problems. The availability of biomass materials significantly outnumbers fossil energy, making it a much more accessible energy source.

4. It’s Adaptable

Biomass energy is also one of the most flexible options accessible. It may be turned into various fuels, each with its own set of applications. Biomass may be used to make biodiesel for automobiles, but it could also be used to grow methane gas and a variety of other biofuels.

Disadvantages of Biomass Energy

It Isn’t completely Clean

While biomass is carbon-neutral fuel, it is not entirely free of contaminants. In addition to carbon dioxide, burning wood and other plant life produce various emissions. Even if the impacts are not as severe as those caused by fossil fuels, they can contaminate the surrounding ecosystem.

2. Expensive in comparison to other options

While the cost of obtaining biomass fuels is lower than that of most fossil fuels, it is still higher than that of many other renewable energy sources.

Biomass projects are sometimes deemed uneconomical to complete, particularly when available solar, water, and wind. This expense arises from the requirement to maintain biomass resources and replant biomass that has been taken. The price of the extraction technology and the transportation of the biomass are significant factors.

3. The Possibility of Deforestation

Even though biomass fuels are renewable, they must be managed. If this is not done, massive deforestation may result.

Why is geothermal not widely used?

Geothermal energy is a clean, renewable energy source, but it has specific downsides and drawbacks. These negatives include:

  • initial cost is expensive
  • a limited supply if not managed properly,
  • dependent on geographical location,
  • transmission losses (if transporting hort water/steam)
  • the potential of decreasing subterranean steam resources
  • possibility of gas release
  • possibility of geological instalbility

Why is geothermal energy better than wind or solar?

Geothermal energy is far from perfect, but it’s the best clean and renewable source of energy with the capacity to support large-scale power consumption.

Clean alternative energy sources like wind and solar might be renewable, but they heavily rely on the weather and climatic conditions. Geothermal energy is still a new field that has not been well explored, but it shows a lot of potential from what has already been uncovered.

Other resources relating to the benefits and drawbacks of Geothermal Energy use:

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Geothermal

Geothermal Energy: Advantages & Disadvantages (2021)

Geothermal Energy Advantages and Disadvantages

Geothermal FAQs | Department of Energy


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