Geothermal Energy: Pros and Cons

“In this source of energy, we use heat from the core of the Earth, deep inside which helps to generate steam from it and it makes electricity.”

Geothermal energy is not new. In a very strong sense, prehistoric people who used caves or dug their homes into hillsides were using geothermal energy.

There is an estimation of about 12% production of heating or cooling by geothermal energy. 

Frost lines are usually those points where groundwater tends to freeze. Once you are below the frost line, which will vary by location, the Earth tends to maintain stable temperature between 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

The temperature of Earth gets hotter and hotter as you go deep. The reason behind this is that the radiation of radioactive decay matter leaks out from the core of the Earth.

For example, if you enter a natural cave in central Missouri, in the United States, the temperature will be a steady 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

This makes “spelunking”, the amateur version of speleology, a popular sport with many college students, in spite of the inherent dangers of underground activity.

With the exception of wet or rainy seasons, you can count on a consistent environment for learning about the Earth, endangered species, and just testing your physical prowess.

Geothermal energy is considered to be one of the cleanest, most environmentally friendly ways to heat and cool homes, as well as to produce electrical energy.

But, in the words of the younger generation, it might be best to consider geothermal as “clean-ish” and “friendly-ish”.

But it rather emits gases which affect the ozone layer.

There are good reasons why geology instructors sometimes encourage students to take part in official, well-run speleology clubs. The world beneath the Earth’s crust is more delicate than we realize.

geothermal energy pros and cons

Geothermal Energy Pros:

1. Nature’s Bounty

For communities that live near hot springs and other naturally occurring outpourings of geothermal energy, harnessing that free energy makes good sense.

If you are living near any such source which can give you heat and steam, you can make geothermal energy.

Steam or water can be captured at the natural site, and put to work turning steam turbines that create electricity or that provide natural hot water.

For centuries, the Japanese have capitalized on natural hot springs for healthful mineral soaks, as have other locations where naturally heated water bubbles to the surface.

2. Making it Work

You don’t have to live near old Faithful or settle on the side of a volcano to use solar energy.

Just as our ancestors used steady underground temperatures to preserve food, our modern engineers have discovered how to use those temperature differences to our advantage.

By drilling down into the Earth or by digging a deep trench, pipes can be laid that will carry liquid through that steady temperature zone.

By using heat-pump technology, the warmed liquid can be pulled up from the Earth, have pressure added to increase the temperature, and then the resultant cooled liquid returned to the Earth.

In summer, the process can be reversed and used to cool and area.

Moreover, it requires very little effort and a budget for maintenance. It also reduces dependence upon the foreign oil demand.

This same process can be used on an industrial level to power turbines that make electricity.

The Advantages:

  • No burning of fossil fuels
  • Minimal waste
  • Almost no pollution
  • Extremely cost-effective
  • Minimal maintenance

Geothermal Energy Cons:

Geothermal Energy: Pros and Cons

And…the Not So Good Stuff:

1. It Costs a Lot

It has often been said that “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” This is definitely true when it comes to geothermal energy, whether using it actively or passively.

Unless you have the good fortune to live near a steam vent or on top of a cave, excavation is going to be essential.

In addition to hiring earthmovers, geothermal is an equipment-heavy process.

A simple home system begins at around $30,000.

But it needs to invest about $12,000 to $30,000.

2. It Affects Aquifers

Drilling into the Earth often means encountering water reservoirs.

In many active geothermal systems, water is pumped up out of the Earth and then pumped back in.

If not carefully managed, this process can deplete important water reserves.

Besides this, we also put marine life in danger with this act. We must be cautious about protecting the aquarian life of marine animals.

We may also add a lot of agents that can contaminate the water if it is not carefully handled.

It also carries the potential for polluting the water if the system is not well maintained.

3. Pollutants Are Sometimes Released

There are a lot of different things underground, and not all of them are sweet and friendly like cave crickets or blind salamanders.

Sometimes drilling can release sulfur, heavy metals (not to be confused with the band), and similar things.

Moreover, other greenhouse gases are also released from the core of the earth. They cause the ozone layer to thicken, which directly causes harmful effects on human health.

Cancer is mainly caused when ozen thickens and Ultraviolet rays reach the surface of the earth. Carbon dioxide is a very dangerous gas emitted by it.

The good news here is that the contaminants released through geothermal energy activities are infinitesimal compared to the burning of fossil fuels.

4. The Earth Moves

Poorly planned, extensive geothermal systems have the potential to destabilize the Earth. This can result in subsidence, mudslides, and even earthquakes if the operation is not well-planned.

5. Location Specific

You cannot make geothermal energy at any location. It is highly location-specific.

It also becomes uncertain if that part of the earth is unstable, like if that area is more prone to earthquakes or floods.

Vertical vs. Horizontal:

Horizontal:

As previously noted, there is a lot of digging or drilling involved with setting up a geothermal system.

As far as your local ecosystem is concerned, a horizontal system is probably the easiest and most economical to set up. It minimizes deep disturbance of the Earth.

It also might take less effort as we go horizontal rather than vertical.

It can even be set up with an existing body of surface water, such as a pond or small lake.

The disadvantage to a horizontal setup is that it requires quite a bit of land and it will definitely disturb any established landscaping. Therefore, it is best done when building new construction.

However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t retrofit an older home. Just be prepared for portions of your area to look like a lunar landscape for a while.

Vertical:

Drilling down avoids some of the landscape disturbance and takes up less horizontal space.

It requires a good engineer who understands your environment and is dedicated to helping you make sure that everything will run smoothly with minimum impact on the earth below your establishment.

It is actually an easier choice for older homes because it requires less digging.

It also works well for homes that are in subdivisions or similar areas where existing substructures might need to be considered. Going with geothermal gives whole new meaning to “call before you dig.”

If an unprofessional person is handling this project, you should make him stop doing this.

The reason for this act is that he might not make sure to lessen the impact on the surface of the earth, which is not ecosystem-friendly.

geothermal energy vertical

Conclusion:

Correctly set up, geothermal energy or heating/cooling is highly efficient and cost-effective. It can easily cut 30% off most electric bills.

However, you will want a good engineer who plans carefully because low impact doesn’t mean any impact on the environment.

You must have a very good time which should work very carefully because we need to make sure that our earth is secure, by abiding all the harmful substances on it.

Furthermore, you will want a company that is going to be around for a while because low maintenance doesn’t mean any maintenance. Keeping your equipment in good shape is essential to efficiency.

Robert