Geothermal Energy is regarded as a poor cousin to its more glamorous cousins Wind and Solar.Geothermal Energy Capacity has been installed and the growth rate is a pathetic 3-4% compared to the over 50% CAGR seen for solar energy and around 30% for Wind Energy.However Geothermal Energy possesses one attribute that the others do not.Its 24 hour generation capability is a massive plus compared to the intermittent nature of Wind and Solar Energy.However long project development time and large capital investments have deterred fast growth in geothermal energy in the world.However some countries like Iceland,Indonesia,Philippines and USA have a strong geothermal energy industry.Note Geothermal Energy has massive use as a heating source for homes and offices,however this article mainly talks from the view of Electricity Generation.
Disadvantages of Geothermal Energy
1) Long Gestation Time Leading to Cost Overruns – The Gestation Time for permitting,financing,drilling etc. can easily take 5-7 years to develop a geothermal energy field.Compare this to 6 months for a small wind farm or 3 months for a Solar PV plant
2) Slow Technology Improvement – Geothermal Energy has the potential to generate 100s of gigawatts of electricity through new techniques like EGS.However the technology improvement has been slow with setbacks.
3) Financing is the biggest problem in developing projects particularly for small project developers in this industry.There are few big geothermal developers like Chevron and Calpine.
4) Regulations – Drilling for new geothermal energy fields,buying of geothermal companies in foreign geographies faces innumerable hurdles.Magma which is one of the biggest geothermal energy companies faced massive local opposition in trying to buy an Icelandic company.This prevents the growth of pureplay geothermal companies in acquiring a critical scale.
5) Limited Locations – Geothermal Energy can only be built in places which have the geological characteristics favorable to generation of geothermal power.Note there have been talk that Enhanced Geothermal Energy (EGS) can lead to a massive increase in the number of locations which can generate Geothermal Energy,however EGS is facing environmental issues.
Advantages of Geothermal Energy
1) Environment Friendly, and Global Warming Mitigation Effects – Geothermal Energy does not lead to any major mining activity,does not lead to significant GHG emissions,does not lead to health hazards like thermal power
2) No Fuel Cost - Geothermal Energy does not require any fuel like most other sources of energy.This is a huge advantage over other fossil fuels whose costs are increasing at a drastic rate every year.Electricity prices are increasingly rapidly in most parts of the world much faster than general inflation.Price shocks due to high fuel costs are a big risk with fossil fuel energy these days
3) Predictable,24/7 Power -Geothermal Energy is very predictable and producers power 24 hours a day,7 days as week.Other forms of Renewable Energy like Solar and Wind Energy are intermittent in nature.The electricity supply is much more uniform and reliable.
4) High Load Factor - The Load Factor for Solar and Wind Energy ranges from 15-40% which is quite low compared to Fossil Fuel Energy.Geothermal Energy has a load factor of almost 80% which is equal to that of Thermal Power and comparable to Nuclear Power.
4) No Pollution and Deaths- Geothermal Energy does not lead to pollution disasters like the BP Oil Spill and Coal Deaths which are directly related to Dirty Energy Production.
Geothermal Energy has a number of Pros and Cons just like other sources of Renewable and non-Renewable Energy.However the Cons are currently winning over the Pros as even big geothermal companies like Ormat,Magma Energy etc are looking to diversify into other energy fields.While there are countries like Indonesia and Philippines which are pushing for geothermal energy development,it looks unlikely that Geothermal will challenge the dominance of Solar and Wind Energy.
Other Greenworldinvestor Articles that expand on this one
- Tidal Wave Energy – Quick Guide to Costs,Investment and How Tidal Generators Produce Tidal Power
- Advantages of Solar Energy – Declining Cost the Biggest One
- List of Geothermal Energy Companies in India – Stuck in a Limbo
- Sumitomo Green Strategy is quite Unconventional with Battery Recycling,Carbon Trading and Geothermal Energy ventures
- After Solar and Wind,Canadian Energy Behemoth Enbridge Dips its Feet into Geothermal Energy as well
- India’s Tata Power looks to become a Geothermal Energy Leader,Targets 25% from Renewable Sources by 2017