Geothermal Energy – Advantages, Disadvantages & Uses


What Is Geothermal Energy?

The heat from the earth is referred to as geothermal energy. This heat is used for bathing, heating buildings, and producing electricity. Geothermal resources are hot water reserves at various temperatures and depths beneath the earth’s surface (source).

Geothermal energy, which was first harnessed in Italy in 1904, has been a stable and expanding energy source in recent years. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), global geothermal energy capacity had increased significantly from roughly 10 GW in 2010 to 13.3 GW in 2018.

What Is Geothermal Energy
Geothermal Energy Plant
Courtesy: IPS Group BV

How Is It Produced?

To generate geothermal electricity, wells up to a mile (1.6 kilometers) deep are bored into subsurface reservoirs to extract steam and very hot water, which drives turbines connected to electrical generators. In 1904 in Larderello, Italy, the first geothermal generated electricity was produced.

Dry steam, flash, and binary geothermal power plants are the three types of geothermal power plants. Dry steam, the oldest geothermal technology, extracts steam from earth fissures and utilizes it to drive a turbine directly. Deep, high-pressure hot water is drawn into cooler, low-pressure water by flash plants.

How Is It Put To Use?

It has been used for thousands of years in various cultures for cooking and heating systems. Underground geothermal reservoirs of steam and hot water can be used to generate power as well as for heating and cooling.

A geothermal heat pump built roughly 10 feet underground is one type of heating and cooling that can be used to harness geothermal energy. These pipes are filled with either water or antifreeze. Water is pumped via a closed loop of pipes.

These ground source heat pump systems aid in the cooling and heating of buildings during the summer. This is accomplished by absorbing the earth’s heat when the water cycles back into the structure.

The geothermal water has been used in greenhouses to stimulate plant growth, as well as for district heating in homes and businesses. It can also be piped beneath highways to melt snow.

Geothermal Energy From Canals And Mineshafts
Courtesy: Global Infrastructure Hub

Over 20 countries use geothermal energy. The United States is the world’s greatest geothermal energy generator and home to the world’s largest geothermal field.

The area, known as The Geysers in California, is located across 117 square kilometers and consists of 22 power units with an installed capacity of more than 1.5GW. This source of energy is also popular in Iceland, where it has been used since 1907.

The country prides itself on being a geothermal power pioneer, generating 25% of its energy from five geothermal power units. The country’s 600 hot springs and 200 volcanoes are credited with this.

Advantages Of Geothermal Energy

Some of the advantages of geothermal energy involve-

1. It is renewable because the rate of energy extraction may be harmonized with the natural heat recharge rate of a reservoir with correct management.

2. It is trustworthy because geothermal power plants produce electricity on a consistent basis, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, regardless of the weather. It can also simultaneously create more power like coal, natural gas, nuclear, or huge hydro units.

3. Because geothermal power facilities are compact, they require less land per GWh (404 m2) than coal (3642 m2), wind (1335 m2), or solar PV with a central station (3237 m2).

4. It is environmentally friendly as modern closed-loop geothermal power facilities emit no greenhouse gases. Over the lifetime of energy production, geothermal power plants use less water than most conventional generation systems.

5. It is adaptable as geothermal power plants generate beneficial by-product heat combined with greenhouses, fish farms, and food processing. You can also drill for heat directly.

Disadvantages Of Geothermal Energy

Geothermal energy has several advantages but the energy source has certain downsides too. Despite producing little CO2, geothermal has been linked to other pollutants such as sulphur dioxide and hydrogen sulphide.

Geothermal generating plants, like fracking, have caused mini-tremors in the areas where they operate and have a high initial cost to create. Because of its activity along with the earth’s tectonic plates, it is also called the most location-specific energy source known to man.

As a result, it is confined to countries such as the United States and Iceland aforementioned, as well as Kenya and Indonesia. Despite its low cost, sustainability, and environmental friendliness, geothermal has some downsides.

Although it is less expensive than fossil fuels once a plant is completed, the drilling and prospecting of these areas are costly. This is partly due to the number of wear drills and other instruments that endure harsh conditions.

Uses Of Geothermal Energy

Some of the uses of geothermal energy involve –

In Household

Using geothermal energy allows you to lower the temperature in your home during hot weather. The device pulls the heated air from your home and directs it to the ground, where it naturally cools.

The cold air will then be returned to your home via the pipes. During the frigid winter months, warmer temperatures in your home will be generated by tapping into a subsurface heat exchange.

Geothermal Energy In Homes
Geothermal Energy In Homes
Courtesy: Engadget

In Industries

Geothermal energy is used to dry many types of goods, primarily fruits, and vegetables. It can also be employed in the extraction of valuable metals from ore.

In Infrastructure

Surprisingly, countries like the Netherlands have begun to employ geothermal energy to prevent icing on bike paths during the colder seasons. As a result, geothermal energy is an excellent source for keeping sidewalks and roadways from freezing in the winter.

In Farms

Geothermal energy is frequently used by farmers to heat their greenhouses. Even in the dead of winter, this technology enables the cultivation of tropical plants such as citrus trees.

Countries like Hungary and Italy have been using geothermal energy to grow vegetables regardless of the weather for decades.

Geothermal Energy From Farm
Geothermal Energy From Farm
Courtesy: ThinkGeoEnergy

In Agriculture

The use of geothermal energy is gradually becoming more common in agriculture and the food business. This type of renewable energy is commonly used to heat and cool buildings, soil and water (including aquaculture water), dry crops and grains, and heat greenhouses.

Many popular geothermal energy applications are comparable to solar energy; however, geothermal energy is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, making it more convenient to obtain than solar, particularly at higher latitudes with less daylight. By the end of 2014, global geothermal energy use had climbed by more than 24 percent.

Geothermal Energy In Agriculture
Courtesy: En-former

Conclusion

Some parts of the world use geothermal energy far more than others. Countries such as the United States, France, New Zealand, and Japan are pioneers in using geothermal energy.

Surprisingly, Iceland’s capital city of geothermal energy is Reykjavik, which derives nearly all of its energy from local springs and wells.

Geothermal energy has far more applications than one might anticipate, and so people are becoming increasingly interested in this alternative energy source and have begun to install geothermal heating equipment in their homes or businesses.

Also Read –

Advantages Of Solar Energy

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