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Geothermal Energy – Advantages and Disadvantages – AEN News

Heber Geothermal Power Plant

Heber Geothermal Power Plant in California.


Geothermal energy represents the energy produced by the Earth’s core and reaches the surface under the form of steam and hot water.

This is a form of natural energy and can be used for residential heating and cooling, and also to generate clean electricity.

The Earth’s core was formed at the birth of the planet, and will remain extremely hot 10,800 °F (6,000 °C) as long as the planet will exist, which means that geothermal energy is a never ending energy source (compared to the time spent by our civilization on the planet).

Being an energy source that will be available for us as the long as the planet will exist, we consider geothermal energy as a renewable energy source.

The radiogenic heat and the primordial heat are the main sources of heat in the Earth’s core.

The primordial heat is only a remnant energy that appeared during the formation process of the planet, while the radiogenic heat is generated by the radioactive decay of the isotopes present into the crust and the mantle of the planet.

Advantages of Geothermal Energy

Being a natural energy source produced by our own planet, geothermal energy provides more advantages than disadvantages.

1. Geothermal Energy is a Free and Renewable Energy Source

Geothermal energy is generated by the Earth’s core, which means that is a free and natural source of power.

Geothermal energy is also a renewable energy source because is produced by the intense heat in the planet’s core.

The core of our planet is hotter than the surface of the Sun, and will remain this way as long as the planet will exist, which means that geothermal energy is a never ending source of power (renewable).

2. Geothermal Energy is an Alternative Energy Source

Geothermal energy is not only a renewable energy source, it is also considered an alternative energy source because it has the capacity to replace the dirty fossil fuels for a cleaner environment.

There are many places on the planet where geothermal energy is available and can be harvested to generate clean energy for residential cooling and heating and also to generate energy that is not polluting the environment.

3. Geothermal Power is Environmentally friendly

Geothermal energy represents the thermal heat generated by the melted and very hot core of our planet.

This thermal heat reaches the surface of the planet under the form of steam and hot water, and represents a natural, clean and environmentally friendly source of power.

4. Geothermal Energy is Stable, Not A Fluctuating Renewable Source of Power

Despite the fact that other renewable energy sources available on the planet such as solar and wind power are intermittent sources of clean power, geothermal energy being produced by the core of our planet (not by the Sun), is a stable energy source because the output of a geothermal power plant can be predicted before its build-up.

5. Geothermal Energy is Ideal for Residential Heating/Cooling

There are a few countries on the planet (Iceland) that benefit from greater resources of geothermal energy, and where the geothermal heat is used for both heating and cooling, and represents a cheap and clean form of power.

Such countries can be considered blessed by nature because their residents are receiving naturally heated water that is also used for heating during the winter.

During the summer, they use the same clean and natural resource to cool their homes.

6. Geothermal Energy Has a Great Potential to Produce Clean Power

Our planet has a pretty significant potential to generate geothermal energy that can be used for heating and cooling, and also to generate a significant amount of clean power.

Estimates say that geothermal energy has the potential to generate about 2 TW (terawatts) of clean power.

7. Geothermal Power Plants have a Small Land Footprint

Geothermal energy is a natural energy that comes from the underground, so the power plant built to use this energy source for heating and energy generation will require a small land footprint.

Due to this fact, geothermal energy is also considered a very practical source of clean power.

8. Homeowners Can Save Money Using Geothermal Energy

Being a natural and clean resource, geothermal energy produces significant savings for home owners.

The initial investment is not cheap, but after installation of the geothermal system, the homeowner will save between 30 to 60% on heating bills, and about 25 to 50% on cooling bills.

These savings are generated by the fact that less energy from the grid will be used to heat and cool the home.

9. Geothermal Energy Represents A Great Economic Asset

There are several countries on the planet (the U.S., Philippines, Indonesia, New Zealand, Mexico, Italy, Iceland, Japan, Iran, Kenya, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Nicaragua) where geothermal energy represents an important resource, which can be capitalized and represents a great economic asset for those countries.

10. No Fuel, No Mining, and No Transporting Activity Is Required by Geothermal Energy

Geothermal power is provided by the Earth’s core and comes from the underground, which means that only the drilling activity will be required if the natural resource is not at the surface.

The hot steam and water will be transported through a piping system not by trucks, so no air pollution will be produced.

11. Geothermal Systems Require Low Maintenance Service

A geothermal system or power plant might have high initial costs, but the installation, both the geothermal system and the geothermal power plant will require a low maintenance service because the entire setup is quite simple.

12. Geothermal Energy Creates Jobs in the Sector

Countries with great supplies of geothermal energy will benefit from this great asset not only economically, but also in terms of new job creation.

Disadvantages of Geothermal Energy

Like any other energy resource available on the planet, geothermal energy has its own disadvantages, mostly related to the environment.

1. Geothermal Energy Can Generate Greenhouse Gases

Even if the resource itself represents only steam and heated water, along with these useful resources, the greenhouse gases located below the Earth’s surface can migrate to the surface (along with them), and can be released into the atmosphere.

The hot water that comes from the geothermal reservoirs could contain traces of toxic heavy metals such as mercury, boron and arsenic.

2. Geothermal Energy is a Location Specific Resource

Geothermal energy is considered one of the most location specific energy sources known to humanity.

This might be the reason why geothermal power plants are mostly built along tectonic fault lines within the earth’s crust.

Only a few countries on the planet such as the U.S., Philippines, Mexico, Indonesia, Italy, New Zealand, Iceland, Iran, Japan, El Salvador, Kenya, Costa Rica and Nicaragua are using geothermal energy for heating and cooling and for clean electricity generation.

3. High Up-front Costs

A geothermal system for home use can have up-front costs between $10,000 and $20,000 (geothermal heating pumps).

The geothermal system installed at home will pay the investment (in savings) only in about 5 to 10 years.

4. Geothermal Energy Requires Careful Management to Remain Sustainable

Any geothermal reservoir needs careful management to keep the resource active for a long period of time.

Without a careful management, the geothermal reservoir will be depleted fast, and the geothermal power plant installed above the reservoir will need to wait a pretty long period of time until the reservoir will be naturally refilled with hot water and steam.

5. Geothermal Energy Can Create Soil Instability

Building a geothermal power plant over a geothermal reservoir could lead to soil instability due to the numerous drillings required to install the underground pipes.

In 2006, a geothermal exploration project in Basel, Switzerland, was blamed for several earthquakes that occurred in the area, one of them measuring the magnitude of 3.4 on the Richter scale.

6. High Distribution Costs

A geothermal power plant uses a system of pipes to transport the hot water and steam to the residential area, but distributing the hot water at longer distances might be unsustainable because the cost will be higher and the hot water will lose most of its temperature during the trip from the power plant to the distant areas served.

I mentioned at the beginning of the article that geothermal energy offers more advantages than disadvantages, and a careful management of the resource will ensure a sustainable use of the reservoir.

The countries where geothermal energy is an important resource, can use this natural source of clean power for heating and cooling purposes, but also to generate clean electricity, and reduce their reliance on fossil fuels.

Magda Savin
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Magda Savin

I write about the renewable energy sector, electric cars and climate change issues.
I love nature and good food, so I travel all over the world to see new places and meet new people.
Magda Savin
Magda Savin
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