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Geothermal energy

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Geothermal Energy

Advantages and disadvantages of geothermal energy

Geothermal energy is a renewable energy. Its origin is in the heat stored inside the Earth. This clean energy is transmitted through hot rock bodies or conduction and convection.

There are two types of geothermal energy types:

  • Small facilities. This technology can be used to obtain sanitary hot water. It is also used in heating systems. It is frequent to see it installed in homes.

  • Large geothermal plants. These plants convert geothermal resources into electricity.

The use of geothermal energy implies the following advantages and disadvantages:

Advantages of geothermal energy

In general, the advantages of geothermal energy outweigh the disadvantages. The main advantages are listed below:

  1. High efficiency. It is the most efficient energy of all renewable energies. The amount of thermal energy lost by transporting heat from the bottom of the well to the surface is minimal.

  2. Constant production. Geothermal energy remains stable throughout the different seasons of the year. Due to the fact that the heat source is several meters underground, the thermal inertia is very high. The earth above it performs an insulating function that prevents thermal transmissions. The effect is similar to that of a cave in which the temperature is practically constant throughout the year.

  3. It exists everywhere. It is a source that is found anywhere on Earth, unlike those that depend on deposits. However, there are more favorable sites than others. For example, in volcanic areas the temperature in the subsoil is easy to be much higher.

  4. It does not depend on the meteorology. It is independent of meteorological variations. This is an important difference from solar energy. It does not matter if it is cloudy, raining or if the swamps related to hydraulic energy are full or empty.

  5. Useful in summer and winter. Geothermal heat pumps take advantage of stable ground temperature to provide heating in winter, cooling in summer, and hot water year-round.

  6. It is viable for private individuals. It can be used in a particular way. For example in isolated houses where electricity does not arrive.

  7. Does not require fuel. Geothermal energy has the advantage that it does not require combustion of any material (neither uranium, nor fuel fuels such as oil, coal or natural gas). Therefore it is not exhausted with the reserves of this. This is the reason why it is considered a renewable energy.

  8. It generates very little waste. The waste it produces is minimal and causes less environmental impact than that generated by combustion, nuclear or fossil fuel energy. A typical single-family home stops emitting two tons of carbon dioxide per year if it uses geothermal energy compared to a home with a natural gas boiler.

  9. Easy maintenance. A major advantage is the ease of maintenance.

  10. Good performance. Geothermal energy has high performance and low consumption.

  11. Economic savings. For example, in a house of about 150 to 180 square meters, the economic savings it represents is 70%.

  12. Low return time. A geothermal energy facility pays for itself over four to six years. This means that in this time, all the money saved in energy is equal to the price that it has been necessary to install the technology.

  13. Visual impact is minimal, as it is an underground installation. In the case of air conditioning, it is usually done with underfloor heating. No need for fans or interior appliances in the rooms or outdoors, just a pump.

Disadvantages of geothermal energy

The main drawbacks of geothermal energy are:

Advantages and disadvantages of geothermal energy

  1. High initial cost. It is necessary to remove it from the subsoil. For this reason, the first stages of the process are long and expensive.

  2. In some parts it is not profitable. Impossibility of exploiting this source of energy everywhere, we must first identify that the place is suitable and the geological characteristics of the terrain. Geothermal energy is not viable on rocky and unstable terrain due to the difficulty of constructing wells.

  3. Unviable in large cities. It is more difficult to install particularly in large cities. The drawback of cities is that the subsoil belongs to the city council. It is normally occupied by other services such as sewerage, natural gas and electricity pipes, etc.

  4. Requires expensive prior studies. To carry out a project for a new installation it is necessary to carry out previous studies. These studies require specific machinery and significant investments in the initial phase of the project.

  5. Possible toxic emissions. In the event of an accident or leak, hydrogen sulfide can be released. It is generally detected by its smell, but in large quantities it is not perceived and it is lethal. In those cases there would also be a certain risk that toxic substances, such as arsenic, ammonia, etc., will be released and contaminate nearby waters.

  6. Environmental impact. In order to exploit this type of energy, it is necessary to drill the earth surface of the geothermal deposit with the consequent deterioration of the landscape. This disadvantage is especially important in large geothermal installations, in single-family houses the environmental impact of geothermal energy is practically imperceptible.

Only local exploitation. It cannot be transported as a primary source of heat, it must be consumed in the same place where it comes from. On the other hand, in geothermal power plants this drawback disappears since electricity can be transported.

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    Published: December 14, 2017
    Last review: September 1, 2020