Geothermal Energy as a Clean Source That Reduces DependenceDownload Audio Version
Geothermal energy is in the form of heat that is found and used in different locations, from Iceland and Italy to Japan and Kenya. It is used to heat office buildings and residential units. Geothermal energy is produced by pumping systems, large power stations, and other types of technologies. This is an affordable and clean solution that allows states to reduce their dependence on imported fossil fuels.
Sources and Facilities
Energy is captured through ground source pumps, hydrothermal convection systems, and other technologies. Geothermal springs are also exploited to generate heat and hot water. In Iceland and other countries, hot water is used to clean ice from the roads, process fish meat, heat houses, spa centers, and fish farms, and for oil extraction. Heat pumps are also used as a way of providing cooling and heating for residential units. Pipes are installed to transport antifreeze and air to buildings. This is a cost-effective and clean solution for areas with continental climates and countries with temperature extremes. The investment is worth making because the payback period is between 5 and 12 years. Consumers who use tax credits benefit from using heat pumps even more. Geothermal springs are also exploited to provide energy for power plants. Cool water is injected into the crust and is heated. Then steam and hot water rise to the surface. There are simple technologies to generate heat, and the design incorporates a condenser and a turbine. More complex designs also include a heat exchanger. Energy is generated through different systems, including binary cycles and flash and dry steams. Dry steam is a technology that pushes steam toward the surfaces and drives the turbines. This is the oldest technology in use.
Benefits for Households and Communities
While the type of system depends on the resource, geothermal energy has many benefits and applications. Energy is used for district and residential heating, resorts, agriculture, industrial applications, aquaculture, and more. It is used in gas and oil wells as well.
This is a source of reliable electricity that generates minimal greenhouse gas emissions. New and conventional technologies create development and employment opportunities in many local communities and rural areas. Production facilities are often located in areas that have sizeable ethnic minority groups and suffer from high levels of unemployment. Poverty-stricken communities benefit the most from geothermal energy projects. Moreover, money, jobs, and technologies are not moved overseas.
The energy is used for a variety of space heating, industrial, commercial, and agricultural applications. Another benefit is that geothermal power diversifies the mix of resources that are used to generate heat. Unlike fossil fuels, countries benefit from stable electricity prices.
Renewable resources offer benefits in the form of incentives, royalties, and taxes. Power plants are among the biggest tax payers in many states. Many companies also build production facilities on private properties and state and federal lands for which they pay royalties.
When it comes to economic benefits, this is a low-cost, environmentally-friendly form of energy. It has been used for millennia for water heating and cooking. Fuels and other non-renewable sources are associated with destruction of wildlife, extinction of rare species, emission of toxic compounds, land use and degradation, and health hazards.
Benefits for the Environment
The major benefit is that production facilities take less land resources than other extraction and power generation facilities. Developers use local resources, and transportation is not required. Moreover, heat is produced without burning oil, gas, coal, or other non-renewable resources. Binary plants release no harmful gases into the environment. Another advantage is that this form of energy is available regardless of the season and weather conditions. This cannot be said for wind and solar energy.
Concerns and Environmental Issues
One problem is that hydrogen sulfide is emitted during production. Long-term exposure is associated with loss of sleep, nausea, respiratory problems, and other health problems. Other side effects include dizziness, poor concentration, moodiness, and loss of appetite. Production facilities also release carbon dioxide which contributes to glacial melting, increased flood risk, and global warming. At the same time, geothermal emissions are negligible compared to coal emissions. Other potential problems are increased seismicity and subsidence. Subsidence refers to the gradual sinking of land due to underground mining, crustal deformation and reduced geothermal reservoir pressure. The negative effects associated with subsistence include destruction of farm land, vegetation, and structures. This leads to pot holes, disruption of water flows, drainage problems, slope changes, and more. The good news is that there are technologies that mitigate risks. Injection technology is one example. Increased seismicity is another problem associated with geothermal technologies. Low-magnitude earth quakes have occurred as a result of site exploitation. Again, the solution is to monitor activities, and developers take steps in this direction.
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