Geothermal Energy Disadvantages What Are The Geothermal Energy Advantages

Geothermal Energy Disadvantages – What Are The Geothermal Energy Advantages?

By: - Environmental - November 30, 2011
geothermal energy disadvantages what are the geothermal energy advantages

Most of the energy we use to power our lives comes from fossil fuels, like coal, natural gas and oil. Unfortunately, at the rate we are using these non-renewable resources, they are going to run out before we know it. It is extremely important that we find other energy sources that are renewable to ensure the future of our energy driven lifestyles.

One of the types of renewable energy sources is called geothermal energy.  Though geothermal energy has been around for thousands of years, only recently has it been used to actually supply electricity in some areas of the world, including in the US. At this point, it is just not possible for every area to use geothermal energy because there has to actually be an opening in the earth to access the energy. However, over time, in areas that do have access to geothermal energy, it has become a viable way to get electricity to people in a renewable way.

Before learning about the geothermal energy advantages and disadvantages, it is important for you to know exactly what geothermal energy is. One easy way to understand geothermal energy is to think back to chemistry classes. If you remember, you probably learned that when some reactions take place, they give off heat which is the case with geothermal energy. In the earth there is a lot of radioactive decay going on and all of it produces heat. The heat from this radioactive decay is used in three main ways:  geothermal electricity, geothermal heating through deep pipes in the earth and geothermal heating through a heat pump.

Geothermal electricity is produced by pumping a liquid, like water, into the earth and letting it go through the natural water cycle, which turns the water into steam due to the heat that is produced by the decay of radioactive elements.  The hot steam is sent through to turbines that are attached to generators that produce electricity. This energy is close to the surface of the earth and can be easily brought to the surface. Areas of the world that practice this method of getting geothermal energy include the US, Italy, New Zealand, Iceland and the Philippines.

Geothermal heating through deep pipes in the earth can be used for many things from heating and cooling buildings to agricultural uses. In this case, the liquid is pulled up from a few feet below the crust of the earth and cooled and pressurized to anywhere between 45 and 58 degrees F (7 – 14 degrees C). This liquid can be cooled or heated easily and it is essentially free heat in the winter and free cooling in the summer.

Geothermal heat pumps are the third main way the heat from radioactive decay is used. These are used like normal heat pumps, but instead of using regular air that is surrounding the pump, the pumps rely on the heat of the earth for heating, cooling and providing hot water. According to research, it is thought that about 70 percent of the energy gained from geothermal heat pumps is from the renewable energy gained from the earth. Since the earth has a constant temperature, the heat from the earth is extremely efficient. When you have one of these pumps, it is estimated that you can save up to 40% on your heating and cooling bills.

There are several geothermal energy advantages in addition to saving on your heating and cooling. One of the geothermal energy advantages is that it reduces our reliance on fossil fuels that are being depleted quickly. These fossil fuels are also quite expensive, so you can save even more money by using geothermal energy, in fact. There are obvious environmental benefits as well. Since geothermal energy is a renewable product, it will help reduce pollution and global warming. Actually, it should be noted that geothermal energy produces zero emissions of any harmful pollutants at all. Another amazing benefit of geothermal energy is that it creates jobs and has many economic benefits for the city or town the plant is located in.

As there are advantages, there are geothermal energy disadvantages as well. One of the great disadvantages of geothermal energy is that it is not widespread and it is, with the technology we currently have, unable to be transferred to other areas. Basically, if you have no local access to an area of the earth that has an opening to get geothermal energy, you can’t use it. Another of the significant geothermal energy disadvantages is that it is extremely expensive to build a plant that can utilize geothermal energy to make electricity. The final, and possibly quite dangerous of the geothermal energy disadvantages is that harmful and even deadly gases can escape from the same holes that are drilled into the earth to get the heat.

As you can see, depending on where you live, there can be some really great advantages to using geothermal energy as long as you are willing to deal with the disadvantages of this type of energy as well.