Geothermal Energy – Advantages and Disadvantages

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Geothermal energy is heat energy that is generated and stored in the earth and can be harnessed for various purposes through different methods. The core of the planet is a mass of heat, and there is a continuous and consistent transfer of this heat from the core to the surface, enabling us to make use of this energy. Geothermal energy has been historically used for many thousands of years, and we continue to use this energy for more modern purposes to fulfill our modern needs.

This source of energy has both advantages and disadvantages as we shall see below.

Advantages

Environment-friendly: Unlike fossil fuels, petroleum and other sources of energy, geothermal energy do not harm the environment. It is hence considered as a safe and clean source of energy. While there are by-products of the creation of thermal energy, they are usually not harmful to the environment.

Low running costs: Maintenance of geothermal power plants are cheaper than for many other energy sources. Since no fuel is used in the generation of geothermal energy, this comprises a huge saving. Hence, electricity produced through geothermal energy is also cheaper, leading to more affordability at a basic level.

Renewable source of energy: Geothermal energy is considered as a renewable source of energy, that is, it will never run out or become depleted. The earth’s core is extremely hot with temperatures up to 4700°C, and can provide energy up to a hundred billion times the annual consumption of the entire world population. There is no danger of this source of energy getting depleted since the heat is being continuously generated.

Disadvantages

High installation costs: The installation of the plants required for harnessing the thermal power from the earth and generating electricity and other power sources from it requires a high initial cost. Though this cost has come down in recent years, it is still pretty prohibitive, preventing many people from adopting this source of energy.

Not suitable for all locations: Geothermal plants cannot be set up at any location. It requires the right kind of earth surface in the region, with enough heat beneath the surface. Hence, these plants are most suitable for hilly areas, located near major tectonic plate boundaries. The earth’s crust is thinner in these places and hence the heat energy can be harnessed much easier.

Surface instability: One of the main concerns with regards to constructing geothermal plants is that it can lead to severe instability on the earth’s surface. There have been incidents of subsidence in Germany and New Zealand, and a massive earthquake was triggered in Switzerland because of the hydraulic fracturing, an essential component of setting up a geothermal plant, during the installation of the same.

In conclusion, geothermal energy does have a lot of potential for the future, but we need to come up with ways to reduce installation costs and technological advances to reduce the negative effects on the earth’s surface. It is an option worth considering.

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