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Geothermal energy is not always good. So what are the disadvantages?

By Edited May 19, 2014 0 0

Geothermal energy can be a very good option in a lot of cases, however just as with everything else there can be drawbacks. Let's take a look at what can be brought up as disadvantages of geothermal energy.

High installation costs

One of the main drawback of gaining zero cost energy from a geothermal origin is high construction costs. When we are talking about industrial utilization of geothermal energy this will require building power plants. This by itself is a big investment and it will require lots of money and time to be able to start obtaining steam from deep inside the earth. Obviously certified installers and qualified staff are required and more often than not they have to be relocated to the on-site location where geothermal energy will be harnessed. Furthermore electricity towers, stations need to be constructed to move the electricity from the geothermal plant to the end-user.

If we take a look at household geothermal use we can say that this particular disadvantage is similarly present. A regular ground source heat pump set-up could easily cost $3000 - $10.000. This could vary but it's still more than a conventional pump system.

Location

The next issue that is commonly mentioned is location. This is not true in every scenario, so why don't we look at it in greater detail. Again, if we are talking about commercial use than location can be seen as a disadvantage. First of all the site will have to provide geothermal activity (the most effective sites are seismically active hotspots) in order to be able to successfully operate a power plant. If this prerequisite isn't met, one will be better off with a solar farm or another eco-friendly energy solution.

For non-commercial geothermal systems placement is not so critical. Surely it must be taken into consideration, but it is less significant than with industrial use. The explanation for this is that seismically productive hotspots are fortunately not the only sites where geothermal energy is found. So if you reckon that the location of your house is a considerable disadvantage then you better think again. There's a continuous supply of more gentle heat - useful for direct warming purposes, i.e. for a ground source heat pump system - at depths of between ten to some hundred feet beneath the surface pretty much in any location on the planet. Not many people would assume so, but quite possibly the ground under your own property has virtually just enough heat to control the climate in your house.
 
Cannot carry geothermal energy

You can't just place geothermal energy on a lorry and transport it somewhere. It can be done with coal or solid wood but it is just not possible with geothermal energy.
In case the power is produced on a domestic scale there's in most cases no requirement to transfer anything, so again this may not be that huge of a disadvantage.

Even the perfect spot might run out of steam

This once more is primarily correct for business oriented use. There can be various causes, but it's true that even a great place can become empty after a while. This point should be taken into serious consideration when planning bigger plants.
 
At present not really a popular source of Energy
 
Sadly geothermal energy is not very widely used yet. The expansion of geothermal energy use is about 3-5% yearly. This is actually slow compared to solar (~50%) and wind (~30%). Once more, this can be seen as a disadvantage.
 
Sluggish Technology Progress

And we now have arrived to the last disadvantage on our list. Geothermal Energy has the potential to create hundreds of gigawatts of electrical power by means of new techniques including EGS. Yet the technological improvement continues to be below average with setbacks.

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