What Are the Major Advantages and Disadvantages of Geothermal Energy?

Geothermal Energy

Renewable energy is a popular topic as many are exploring alternative forms of energy, such as geothermal energy. For those who don’t know, geothermal energy uses underground heat to move turbines and produce power.

This article will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using geothermal energy. By the end of this you will know if geothermal energy is right for your home.

Geothermal Energy Advantages

This is a short list of the many benefits you can expect from this renewable energy source.

Environmentally Friendly Geothermal Energy

Geothermal Energy is Environmentally Friendly

Most conventional energy sources require the burning of fossil fuels, which produces dangerous chemicals. Geothermal energy requires no fossil fuels and creates almost no emissions.

Not only that, but you can expect savings of up to 80% compared to other energy sources.

Geothermal Energy is Reliable

Wind energy works well when the wind is blowing. Solar energy is great when the sun is shining. But, neither of these are 100% reliable as the wind will stop and solar panels cannot collect energy during the night.

However, geothermal energy is consistent and occurs all year long regardless of the weather or season. All renewable energy sources are reliable, but geothermal currently ranks as the most reliable.

Geothermal Energy is Highly Efficient

If having renewable energy all the time isn’t good enough, then this is another major advantage you’ll enjoy. Geothermal energy pump systems typically require 25-50% less electricity than conventional heating and cooling systems. Plus, you can easily adapt this energy and its associated systems to various situations.

Little Maintenance of Geothermal Energy

Geothermal Energy Requires Little Maintenance

Geothermal systems typically have few moving parts with reinforced shelters. This means that you can easily expect the systems to last a minimum of 20 years.

Most warranties last between 25 to 50 years, so you can easily get repairs as needed for most systems. The majority of systems in your home won’t last this long, making geothermal energy highly reliable.

Geothermal Energy Disadvantages

As great as this energy source is, everything has disadvantages. This will give you a fuller picture of what you can expect if you choose this energy source.

Greenhouse Emissions

Greenhouse Emissions

As stated above, the greenhouse emissions are significantly lower than conventional energy sources. However, there are still greenhouse gases emitted with geothermal energy.

The energy extraction results in gases such as carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and ammonia being released into the air. While it’s not perfect, the emissions are much lower than other energy sources.

Geothermal Energy Depletion

Potential Depletion

We said before how wind energy only works when the wind is blowing and solar energy only works when the sun is shining. While these don’t happen 24 hours a day, you can expect them on a daily basis.

Geothermal energy is usually available 24 hours a day, but there is a chance of energy depletion. There are many factors that go into this, but the realistic chances of energy being depleted are quite rare.

The only truly nondepletable geothermal energy source is direct magma exposure, but that technology is still being developed. In general, the energy should last a long time, but there is a chance it will run out.

Geothermal Energy Upfront Investment

Large Upfront Investment

This is a disadvantage of most current renewable energy sources, so you shouldn’t be surprised to see it here. The cost of drilling into the ground and installing the system will set you back a fair amount of money.

However, you should recoup your expenses within 2-10 years depending on the system and your energy usage.

Land Requirements

You must have access to the land near your home to install a geothermal system. Unlike solar energy, which can be installed on the roof, you’ll need to dig into the ground to install this system.

This might be an issue in larger cities where you have little to no yard space. However, a vertical system might be able to get around this issue.

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Different Geothermal Systems

Geothermal Systems

There are several geothermal systems to choose from. You will want to choose one based on climate, installation area, soil conditions, and available land.

You can also choose between either closed or open systems. The systems you can choose from include:

Closed System

  • Pond
  • Vertical
  • Horizontal

Open System

  • Standing Well
  • Pond

Each system is different in terms of size and installation of the pipes.

Expected Costs

Geothermal Energy Costs

We mentioned before that all renewable energy sources have large upfront costs and geothermal energy is no exception. So, what type of investment are you looking at?

It depends on the size and type of system, but you can expect it to be around $12,000 to $30,000 for most homes. The cost can go up to $45,000 for larger homes.

Remember that most of the cost is in the upfront investment. The energy costs and maintenance are significantly less than for conventional systems. You should expect to recoup your investment after 2-10 years. After that you can really enjoy the large savings.

Grants and Incentives

Geothermal Energy Grants and Incentives

Depending on where you live, there are often grants and incentives available for geothermal energy. In both the UK and US, there is a 30% tax credit for those who use geothermal energy.

This helps you recoup your investment much faster, plus it can help you foot the bill in the first place. For example, if the system costs $12,000, then you should expect a $3,600 tax credit.

Be sure to talk to an accountant to get the latest information on this tax credit. Check this to see how much you can write off when tax time comes around.

Land Characteristics

Geothermal energy systems are quite versatile and can be installed almost anywhere. That being said, there are some land characteristics you should consider to see which system is best for your needs. Some of the characteristics that you should consider are:

Geology

This refers to the soil and rock composition near your home. This needs to be taken into account when drilling and installing the system.

Hydrology

This largely influences when you can use an open or closed system. This can also help power an open system if the water is sufficient.

– Available Land

More land is better, but certain systems can be used with limited available land.

Conclusion

Geothermal energy is highly reliable, constantly available, very inexpensive, and requires almost no maintenance. At the same time, there is a high upfront cost, the energy might diminish, and you will need some land to install the system.

If you want a renewable energy source that you can depend on throughout the whole day, then geothermal energy might be right for you.

 

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