"Geothermal can be a huge source of energy very quickly."

David Suzuki, Scientist

Pros and Cons of Geothermal Energy

the advantages and downsides of geothermal energy

Geothermal energy is thermal energy which is produced using the heat inside our earth’s crust.

 

Geothermal power is an important renewable energy source that may play a big role in the future green energy mix.

 

Even though geothermal energy has many upsides, it also poses serious problems for our environment. In this article, the pros and cons of geothermal energy are examined.

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Pros of Geothermal Energy

  1. Geothermal power as relatively green energy source
  2. Renewable and sustainable
  3. No noise pollution
  4. Stable energy supply
  5. Not dependent on weather conditions
  6. Low unit price for energy
  7. Large future expansion prospects
  8. Creation of local jobs
  9. Independence from other countries
  10. No dependence on fossil fuels
  11. Not affected by price increases for fossil fuels
  12. Mostly operated below the earth’s surface
  13. Geothermal energy can also be used by individual households
  14. Low maintenance efforts and costs
  15. Tax subsidies in many countries
  16. Important for the energy transition process

Geothermal power as relatively green energy source

One of the advantages of geothermal energy is that it can be considered to be a pretty green power source. For instance, in contrast to conventional energies produced with the use of fossil fuels, greenhouse gas emissions are much lower. Moreover, the large transportation distances of raw materials to power plants that are implied by the use of fossil fuels as an energy source can be avoided.

 

Renewable and sustainable

Geothermal energy can also be regarded as sustainable and renewable energy source, since the heat inside our earth’s crust has been there long before the first human populated the planet and will be there after humanity has become extinct. Thus, there is no reason to belief that we as humanity will run out of geothermal energy at some point in time.

 

No noise pollution

Contrary to other alternative energies like wind power, the use of geothermal energy does not lead to noise pollution at all. Thus, geothermal energy is a quite quiet energy source and people who live nearby will not be disturbed by noises related to this power generation method.

 

Stable energy supply

The energy that is produced through geothermal processes can also be regarded to be quite stable and reliable. There had been much more issues with other alternative energy sources in the past than with geothermal energy. Since most of the processes related to the production of geothermal energy take place below the surface, geothermal power facilities are less vulnerable to outside conditions.

 

Not dependent on weather conditions

Moreover, geothermal power is independent of weather conditions, meaning that it is not important if there is sunlight or wind. While other energy sources like solar power or wind energy rely on those kinds of climatic factors, the production of geothermal energy is independent from them and therefore, it can be regarded as more robust and reliable compared to other alternative energies.

 

Low unit price for energy

Apart from the high initial construction and installation costs, geothermal energy is one of the most cost-efficient alternative energies. This implies that the unit prices of energy produced with the help of geothermal power are quite low. In turn, this could be greatly beneficial for homeowners since they could improve their environmental footprint and also save money in the long run.

 

Large future expansion prospects

Even though there had been plenty of research and improvements in efficiency in the past, the expansion of geothermal energy on a global scale has been rather slow. Thus, there may be great potential to further expand this kind of alternative technology so that much more countries could benefit from this green power source.

 

Creation of local jobs

In areas with a high structural unemployment rate, geothermal energy could be a huge chance to improve the overall job opportunities of the local population. For instance, this could mean that municipalities offer geothermal power companies tax advantages if they open branches in those regions.

 

Through the creation of additional jobs, the average income of the local population may significantly increase, which may lead to significant improvements of the overall quality of life for those people, especially in poor developing countries on our planet.

Independence from other countries

Geothermal energy may also constitute a chance to lower the dependence on other countries concerning the energy supply.

 

For instance, in countries where the construction of geothermal power plants is a viable option, those countries who former relied on gas or oil supply from foreign countries may now be able to produce enough energy on their own to become independent from other countries.

 

In turn, they may also improve their negotiating power due to the lower level of dependence on foreign countries.

 

No dependence on fossil fuels

Since geothermal energy is produced using the heat inside our earth’s crust, there is no need to use fossil fuels in any stage of the energy production process. Thus, through the use of geothermal energy, many regions could become independent from fossil fuels, which may improve their environmental footprint and may also strengthen their economic power at the same time.

 

Not affected by price increases for fossil fuels

The price for fossil fuels will likely significantly increase over the next decades due to the fact that those fuels will become much scarcer. Since a price is determined by supply and demand, a drop in supply will lead to higher world market prices for oil and other fossil fuels.

 

Since geothermal energy production is independent from the use of fossil fuels, countries and industry which rely on geothermal energy instead of fossil fuels for energy production will also not be affected by price increases for fossil fuels.

 

Mostly operated below the earth’s surface

Since the processes that are needed for the geothermal energy production are mostly executed below the surface, there is quite little visual pollution associated to this kind of alternative energy.

 

Moreover, the areas of land that have to be used for geothermal power production are also rather low compared to other energy production facilities like solar farms or wind parks. Thus, geothermal energy can be regarded to be more efficient in terms of land use.

 

Geothermal energy can also be used by individual households

Geothermal energy is not only suitable for industrial use, it can also be used by individual households as an efficient energy source. Even though the initial construction and installation costs may be quite high, the use of geothermal energy may pay off in the long run since the unit price of energy that is produced is quite low and the high initial costs may amortize over the lifespan of the power production facility.

 

Low maintenance efforts and costs

Another advantage of geothermal energy is that the maintenance efforts and costs related to this kind of alternative energy are quite low.

 

Since many processes regarding geothermal power are executed below the surface, this technology is less vulnerable to extreme weather conditions like thunderstorms compared to wind or solar energy devices.

 

Thus, while solar panels or wind turbines may get destroyed or damaged through those extreme events, geothermal energy engines may not be affected at all.

 

Tax subsidies in many countries

In many countries on our planet, there are significant tax subsidies for the installation of geothermal energy devices.

 

This makes it even more attractive to invest in this energy since the overall construction costs may be lower and the return on investment may become even higher over the lifespan of the geothermal energy production plant.

 

You should check out if there are significant tax benefits related to the installation of geothermal power device in your country so that you can benefit from it in case there is.

 

Important for the energy transition process

Geothermal energy will play an important role in the transition from fossil to renewable energies. Thus, in order to ensure our energy supply in the future, it is crucial to invest in this kind of technology and give companies incentives to further expand their activities in this field. Only then will it be possible to leave fossil fuels behind and transit to an eco-friendly energy mix in the near future.

Cons of Geothermal Energy

  1. High upfront costs for construction and installation
  2. Connection costs to the local electricity grid may be quite high
  3. Geographic dependence
  4. Pollution
  5. Greenhouse gas emissions
  6. Geothermal energy reservoirs may eventually become depleted
  7. Quite high temperatures needed for geothermal energy
  8. Geothermal energy production may contribute to earthquakes
  9. Odor nuisance for nearby residents
  10. Large amounts of water are needed

High upfront costs for construction and installation

Even though the energy unit price from geothermal power is quite low, the initial construction and installation costs can be significant. This is not only true for companies, but also for private homeowners and investors.

 

Thus, many people, especially in poor developing countries, may refrain from investing in geothermal power, although it might be economically beneficial for them in the long run.

 

Therefore, high upfront costs could prevent people to engage in this kind of renewable energy.

 

Connection costs to the local electricity grid may be quite high

Apart from the high construction costs, there could also be significant connection costs regarding geothermal energy. The energy that is produced in geothermal processes has to be injected into the local electricity grid. However, if the regions where geothermal energy is produced are quite remote, this connection costs could be enormous since the connection to the local electricity grid may require plenty of planning and construction.

 

Geographic dependence

The efficient use of geothermal energy is only possible in certain regions on our planet where the heat inside our earth’s crust can be accessed quite easily.

 

However, this also implies that many regions on our planet are actually not suitable for this kind of technology, since it is simply too costly to access and use the heat under the surface.

 

Thus, many countries will not be able to use geothermal power in a cost-efficient manner and have to rely on other alternative energy sources instead.

 

Pollution

Even though geothermal power can be considered to be a rather green energy source when compared to the use of fossil fuels, it still contributes to significant levels of pollution of many sorts. For instance, in the production process of geothermal energy, large amounts of gases are emitted into our atmosphere, which leads to significant air pollution.

 

Moreover, harmful chemicals may be released from the earth’s crust into our environment, which may lead to soil pollution and may hurt a variety of animals and plants. Thus, although geothermal power is considered as a green energy by the general public, it is actually not entirely green.

 

Greenhouse gas emissions

The use of geothermal energy also involves the emission of greenhouse gases into our atmosphere. Even though the amount of greenhouse gases is much lower compared to the use of conventional fossil fuels like coal, it still contributes to global warming and the related adverse issues. Thus, there might be better alternative energies in the long run in order to fight global warming and other environmental issues.

Geothermal energy reservoirs may eventually become depleted

Even though the heat inside our earth is literally eternal, the reservoirs that are used for geothermal energy production are not. If those reservoirs are excessively used, they could become eventually depleted.

 

Thus, in the planning process of geothermal power plants, it should be ensured that reservoirs are sufficient enough to provide geothermal energy for quite a long time.

 

Moreover, companies should refrain from exploiting those reservoirs in an excessive manner in order to ensure a long-term energy supply.

 

Quite high temperatures needed for geothermal energy

For the production of geothermal energy, quite high temperatures are needed. If those temperatures are not reached, geothermal power plants may not work properly and the energy output may be quite low. Thus, depending on the geographic area, geothermal power may not be a suitable energy source if the heat in our earth cannot be accessed properly.

 

Geothermal energy production may contribute to earthquakes

Even though this sounds kind of weird, geothermal energy has also been blamed to cause earthquakes. In fact, many scientists agree that through the exploitation of heat inside our earth’s crust, natural conditions could be altered in a way that may support the development of earthquakes.

 

Thus, especially in areas that are already at danger for earthquakes, the use of other alternative energies might be preferred over the use of geothermal energy in order to avoid this kind of natural disaster.

 

Odor nuisance for nearby residents

Since geothermal power plants emit certain gases that have an unpleasant smell, nearby residents may suffer from serious odor nuisance. This may also lead to a decline in property prices in areas around a geothermal power facility.

 

Thus, even though geothermal power only implies low levels of visual pollution compared to other alternative energies like wind, it may still affect the general public in an adverse manner through unpleasant smell.

 

Large amounts of water are needed

For the cooling of certain devices related to the production of geothermal power, large amounts of water have to be used. Since water will become a quite scare resource in the future due to global warming, especially in the Southern hemisphere of our planet, this may lead to serious problems for the expansion of geothermal energy.

Geothermal Energy Pros & Cons - Summary List

Geothermal Energy Pros

Green energy

Renewable & sustainable

No noise pollution

Stable supply of energy

Independent of weather conditions

Unit energy price rather low

Large future expansion possible

Creation of jobs

Independence from other countries

Independence from fossil fuels

Independence from fossil fuel prices

Mostly operated below the surface

Can be used by households

Low maintenance efforts

Tax subsidies

Important for the energy transition process

Geothermal Power Cons

High upfront costs

High connection costs

Geographic dependence

Pollution

Emission of greenhouse gases

Reservoirs may become depleted

High temperatures needed

May contribute to earthquakes

Odor nuisance

Large amounts of water are needed


Conclusion

Geothermal energy is an important alternative energy source and may also play a crucial role in the energy transition process. Even though it has many advantages, geothermal energy also has serious downsides. Thus, in the future, geothermal power may lose the raise against other alternative energy sources like solar power or wind energy.

Sources

About the author

 

My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people of all ages about our environmental problems and how everyone can make a contribution to mitigate these issues.

 

As I went to university and got my Master's degree in Economics, I did plenty of research in the field of Development Economics.

 

After finishing university, I traveled around the world. From this time on, I wanted to make a contribution to ensure a livable future for the next generations in every part of our beautiful planet.

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