What are the advantages of geothermal energy?

We have the technology to do a lot of things and one of these is to tap the earth’s energy. This is exactly what we do when we decide to use geothermal which happens to be a green energy source.

First lets make clear what is geothermal energy is, it is energy obtained by tapping heat from the earth itself. This comes from magma and the radioactive decay of uranium, thorium, and potassium.

advantages of geothermal energy, a power plant for geothermal energy production
Next, how is geothermal energy produced?

There are 3 types of geothermal plants around. These are namely dry steam, flash, and binary.

  • 1. Dry steam plants take steam out of fractures in the ground and use it to directly drive a turbine that spins a generator.
  • 2. Flash plants take on water at temperatures over 200 °C, out of the ground, and allows it to boil as it rises to the surface then separates the steam phase in steam/water separators which runs the steam through a turbine to generate electricity.
  • 3. Binary plants. Here, hot water flows through heat exchangers and that boiling organic fluid is what spins the turbine.

Once power is generated, the condensed steam and remaining geothermal fluid from all three types of plants are injected back into the hot rock to pick up more heat.

Where is geothermal energy found?

Geothermal power plants are used operational in many different countries of the world. These are usually located in geologically unstable parts of the planet.  But also in areas with geologically stable conditions you can create energy with Geothermal Heat Pumps. These heat pumps use stable temperatures under the ground to heat and cool buildings. You can find them in Australia, China, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Ethiopia, France (Guadeloupe), Guatemala, Iceland, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Philippines, Portugal (Azores), Russia, Thailand, Turkey, United States. Iceland the most prominent example gets one-quarter of all its power and 85% of its total space-heating needs from geothermal sources.

If you ask is geothermal energy renewable? Yes, geothermal-power is a green energy source just like wind energy, hydropower and bio fuel.

graphic on how-geothermal-works

Some Geothermal Energy Pros And Cons.

The pro facts and advantages of geothermal power:

  • 1. It comes with a very high energy density.
  • 2. The impact on the environmental is relatively low.
  • 3. the land usage is minimal
  • 3. This form of energy is often available close to its users.
  • 4. By maximizing its potential, we don’t have to worry about the price of oil in the world market. At the moment the crude oil prices are below $50 only, but according to the World Bank Commodity Forecast Price data (July 2015) we will definitely see rising prices in the coming years.

If you were to compare the amount of energy collected from geothermal to solar, you still get more from the sun. Despite that, people should still use it since solar energy cannot be harnessed when the clouds block the sun’s rays from reaching the solar panels.

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What are the disadvantages of geothermal energy?

  • 1. The locations – One key problem is that there are not many places where you can build a geothermal power station.
  • 2. Drilling problems – Drilling very deep holes can cause problems, because this can cause tremors in the earth and can be hard to do, especially if drilling is done through hard rocks.
  • 3. Water loss – One problem is that some water used in geothermal energy systems gets lost, as evidenced by the results of various tests showing that only a third of the water comes back to the surface.
  • 4. Water pollution – Hot water coming from geothermal sources can also contain trace amounts of dangerous elements such as arsenic, mercury, and antimony. In case water containing these elements is disposed of into lakes, rivers, or other bodies of water, it can make the water unsafe to drink.
  • 5.  Risk of other pollutants – In some geothermal locations, hazardous gases and minerals may come up from underground, and can be difficult to safely dispose of. Some events at locations near geothermal plants suggest that the plants could contribute to increased levels of hydrogen sulfide near the location.
  • 6. The downside to geothermal energy is the fact that it is expensive to build. For example the power plant in the Klamath Falls, Oregon costs $ 2,580,000 to built. The geothermal heat pump system at Feather River College in Quincy, California costs $512,000.

But that is not the only thing we should be concerned about. We should also do our best to protect the environment given that coal fired and nuclear power plants produce harmful gases and radioactive waste that may cause to people and the surrounding areas. If it comes to nuclear energy, we should have learned our lessons from Fukushima, Chernobyl and Three Mile Island.

For us to do our share to protect the environment now and for generations to come, we have to promote alternative energies and geothermal as a green energy source is just one of many that are currently available.

Interesting EU report: http://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/bitstream/JRC93338/jrc%20geothermal%20report_final.pdf

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