Geothermal energy is being pegged as the next big thing. It is already a huge industry in Iceland. The country meets about 25% of its energy requirements through geothermal plants. Many countries are trying to get aggressive with geothermal projects to generate more energy without compromising the health of the environment, the world and the people.
Geothermal energy is generated by the earth. The earth’s core is extremely hot. The temperature dips from the core to the crust. The topmost surface of the crust, what we get to see, is the coolest in this spectrum. Geothermal energy is harnessed from the temperature within the earth’s surface. This is considered to be a great source of power because the earth’s temperature is replenished. In other words, one would not run out of this source as would be the case with coal, natural gas, uranium and fossil fuels. While geothermal energy is not harnessed as widely as other forms of energy, it might be worthwhile to look at the geothermal energy pros and cons. Every form of energy has some advantages and some disadvantages. Renewable energy sources have very few disadvantages but there are some shortcomings or limitations which pose a considerable challenge.
1. With geothermal energy, there are no emissions. No greenhouse gases or harmful emissions have to be dealt with. There is no carbon emission and no such waste that is common with thermal energy generated from coal. Generating geothermal energy is otherwise a very simple exercise. Imagine having a pipe installed in the ground running for several miles. This pipe is loaded with water which gets heated by the temperature inside earth. The water forms steam and that rises up to power a turbine. Thereon, it is conventional generation of power through the conversion of mechanical energy to electricity. There is no waste to be accounted for.
2. There is no need for any kind of fuel. With most forms of energy generation, fuel is needed, either to facilitate the process or for transportation. Coal or uranium would still have to be transported. With geothermal power plants, nothing needs to be transported. Electricity is generated and then channelized per is the requirement.
3. There is no mining which also does away with the dozens of environmental and humanitarian concerns associated with coal and uranium mining.
4. Geothermal power is more reliable than solar power and wind energy. Winds are unpredictable and so is solar power. The earth is relatively much more stable and predictable. The temperatures inside earth are more reliable than the temperature outside that is created by the sun or the power of the winds.
5. Geothermal power stations require very little space, atop the earth’s crust that is. There can be elaborate setups underground but none of them actually causes a space crunch above. All forms of power plants require a lot of space, whether it is solar power or wind energy, nuclear energy or hydropower plants.
6. There is no capping to how much energy can be generated with geothermal power stations. There is virtually a limitless supply.
7. While the earth’s crust does vary in its size or thickness and in its properties, one thing is for sure and that’s the possibility of generating geothermal power everywhere on the planet. No matter what country, topography or climate, the earth would be hot inside and that hat can be used to generate electricity. Besides, the technology is simple, safe and reliable and one can get assured power. The amount of power generated can albeit vary.
8. With further development in the technology, geothermal plants would be able to harness much lower temperatures inside the earth’s crust. This means that facilities will cost less to build and there could be more power generated from the same source.
1. A major challenge of geothermal energy is finding the prime sites. Although the technology to identify the prime sites is available, there is no specific pattern or predictability to spot the locations. Some locations can be extremely remote or very challenging to build the plants.
3. Loss of energy during long distance transmission of electricity is immense. This is one of the biggest disadvantages of geothermal energy.
4. The use of water cannot be done away with. Large plants would require copious amounts of water.
5. Silica emissions and sulfur dioxide remain a concern although they can get scrubbed off during the process of generating geothermal energy. They don’t contaminate ground water or the immediate environment.
6. Geothermal power plants have a costly construction. Drilling into the rocks, especially when one goes down enough to find heated rocks, is extremely challenging. All such exercises require government support.
7. Present technology requires a minimum temperature of 350 degrees F for electricity to be generated. That temperature is not always found at equal depths at all places. Digging deeper costs more money and makes matters more complicated.