Home Geothermal Energy Guide Focusing on the environmental impact of geothermal heating

Focusing on the environmental impact of geothermal heating

by DrPrem Jagyasi

The scarcity of fossil fuels has made it mandatory for all countries across the globe to pay more attention to the alternative sources of energy. Geothermal energy is produced by utilizing the heat energy trapped within the layers of earth. High production costs and lack of appropriate locations are few problems that have to be tackled for producing geothermal energy in large quantities for mass use.

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Most geothermal power plants are situated close to areas where the molten rocks that help in producing hot water are closer to the surface of the earth. Geothermal plants located in other regions will have to dig dipper into the surface of earth to reach the geothermal resources lying deeper inside. Improved technologies are being used for transforming the geothermal resources into usable electric energy. In the following the impacts of geothermal energies on our environment have been discussed.

The advantage of using geothermal energy:

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The running cost for producing geothermal energy is around 80% lower than that of fossil fuels. There is no fuel needed for generating geothermal energy and this helps in keeping the transportation and plant maintenance costs low. In the past decade the price of fossil fuels has soared beyond the reasonable standards and countries are now looking for more cost effective options.

Combustion of fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide and other harmful Greenhouse gases. High prices and extreme levels of pollution are the two reasons why geothermal energy is preferred more than fossil fuels. Geothermal energy does not cause pollution during its production or use.

The geothermal systems release few gases deeper into the earths crust but do not create pollution. Geothermal energy is basically a clean and eco-friendly option and it will also prove to be cheaper in the long run. Geothermal plants are broadening the horizon of well-paid and secure jobs for unemployed citizens.

The ways in which geothermal energy impacts the environment:

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For producing geothermal energy, the geothermal fluids and gases have to be extracted from the underground. As a result the natural reservoirs, where geothermal plants are built, lose heat ten times faster than the normal rate. This type of imbalance can affect the environment of that particular region negatively. The waste fluids have to be carefully injected back into the geothermal system for avoiding the imbalance and its effects. The best thing about the geothermal systems is that they run completely on electricity. They emit no carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide.

As the production of geothermal energies does not create Green House gases it is considered a safer alternative to fossil fuels. The US Environmental Protection Agency or EPA has proclaimed that geothermal heat pumps are the most eco-friendly, clean and cost effective systems we can use for producing energy.

Geologists have found that geothermal development and the installation of geothermal system can damage vital natural features like hot springs, mud pools, sinter terraces, geysers, fumaroles and steaming ground. The grounds where geothermal evacuation takes place gets sagged and such damages are irreparable.

When the geothermal fluid is extracted, the pressure in the deeper levels of the ground decreases. This makes the land sink. In Wairakei the subsidence bowl is sinking at an astonishing rate of half a meter every year. This may lead the ground to collapse and cause further damage. The geothermal fluid contains dangerous substances like arsenic, mercury, boron and lithium in high percentages.

Underneath the ground the fluid comes into contact with the rocks and gets contaminated with the harmful pollutants. When the waste fluid is released into waterways and rivers it will contaminate the water. Water with high levels of arsenic or mercury is unsafe for drinking and irrigation.

Summary

Geothermal energy has gained vital importance as a viable alternative to fossil fuels but its production can negatively impact the environment. It is necessary to take precautionary measures while using geothermal systems for avoiding environmental collapse.

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