Advantages and Disadvantages of Geothermal Energy

Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Plant

Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Plant in Iceland

Geothermal energy is somewhat of an unknown entity in the average person’s knowledge of alternative power sources. For a brief language lesson, geothermal from the Greek words “geo” and “therme” mean earth’s heat. The interior of the Earth is made from molten rock and what geothermal energy does is capture the heat under the Earth’s crust to create a power source.

How Geothermal Energy Works

Picture the center of the Earth. It is so hot that it can melt rock quite easily. Well, as you go down into the Earth’s crust, the temperatures get higher and higher. It is estimated that for approximately every forty yards (not quite half the length of a football field), the temperature rises about thirty-four degrees Fahrenheit. What happens is that the heated rocks below the Earth’s surface heat up water to create steam. Holes are then drilled into these specific geothermal regions so that the steam can escape.

During the process, the geothermal power station drills the holes mentioned above and creates an injection well where cold water is pumped down the well. This cold water filters through the hot rocks and then pressure is used to bring the water back up. Once the hot water reaches the surface, it turns into the steam, which is then harnessed for power. Well, that steam is cleaned and filtered and then used to power turbines, which in turn provide an electric power source.

The Advantages of Geothermal Energy

When a power station harnesses geothermal power in the correct manner, there are no by products, which are harmful to the environment. Environmentalists should be happy about that!

There is also no consumption of any type of fossil fuels. In addition, geothermal energy does not output any type of greenhouse effect. After the construction of a geothermal power plant, there is little maintenance to contend with. In terms of energy consumption, a geothermal power plant is self-sufficient.

Another advantage to geothermal energy is that the power plants do not have to be huge which is great for protecting the natural environment.

The Disadvantages of Geothermal Energy

There are several disadvantages to geothermal energy.

First, you cannot just build a geothermal power plant in some vacant land plot somewhere. The area where a geothermal energy power plant would be built should consist of those suitable hot rocks at just the right depth for drilling. In addition, the type of rock must be easy to drill into.

It is important to take care of a geothermal site because if the holes were drilled improperly, then potentially harmful minerals and gas could escape from under ground. These hazardous materials are nearly impossible to get rid of properly. Pollution may occur due to improper drilling at geothermal stations.

Unbelievably, it is also possible for a specific geothermal area to run dry or lose steam.

Alternative Geothermal Energy Uses

Besides power resources, geothermal energy can be harnessed for other means as well.

Thanks to geothermal water, there are natural hot springs all over the world and many people enjoy the warm waters and its restorative effects. Geothermal water can also be beneficial for growing agricultural products in a greenhouse within a cold or icy climate. Geothermal waters can be harnessed to create space heating in buildings or even to keep streets and sidewalks warm enough to prevent icing over. Several cities have actually used geothermal energy in this unique manner.

Future of Geothermal Energy

Because geothermal energy is reliable and renewable, this alternative power source will start to enjoy more growth. However, just remember that geothermal energy will not necessarily be available in many areas due to its volatile needs. Areas like California, Iceland, Hawaii and Japan are just a few places where geothermal energy is being used, many due to earthquakes and the underground volcanic activity.

Page Updated: February 22, 2017
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