Generating electricity using geothermal energy is a clean, renewable process, but there are some distinct disadvantages and challenges associated with it. These challenges include a restricted resource, limited suitable geographical areas, transmission losses, and the possibility of depleting steam resources from underground wells.
The Resource and Location
There is geothermal energy beneath the entirety of the earth’s surface, but not all of that energy can be harnessed. There is only a small percentage of land that lies above suitable pockets of water and steam that can heat homes or power electrical plants, limiting the possibility of installation of geothermal power plants. Many of the places that are ideal for providing substantial amounts of geothermal energy that can be converted into electricity are also located in areas that are extremely tectonically active. When there is a constant risk of earthquakes or volcanic activity, corporations are hesitant to install large-scale electricity generating facilities.
Aside from the lack of adequate resources, one of the reasons that geothermal electricity is not widely used in the United States is due to a lack of infrastructure for it. By nature, a geothermal energy source could only be used to produce the baseline power for an electrical grid which causes problems in and of itself. Equipment for drilling wells and setting up power plants is extraordinarily expensive and training people to staff a geothermal power plant is time consuming and costly. There is also the restriction of where the geothermal energy can be used. Once the energy is extracted form the underground wells, it cannot be transported to a different facility whose grid is more in need, it has to be used as it is extracted.
Renewable Does Not Mean Unlimited
Contrary to popular belief, the water and steam that is extracted from the earth is not boundless. Every well only has so much water that can be extracted and without proper reinjection of used water back into the wells, there is not enough pressure to propel the steam and water upwards. If the pressure gradient is not adequately reestablished, not only is there the potential for the energy source to dwindle, but there is also the possibility of greater geological impacts like the creation of sink holes.
Primary Author: Allison Scoular
Edited By: Jessica Ross
Kukreja, Rinkesh. “Disadvantages Of Geothermal Energy.” Conserve Energy Future. N.p., 2014. Web. 28 Apr. 2014. <http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/Disadvantages_GeothermalEnergy.php>.