geothermal energy pros and cons

4 Advantages and Disadvantages of Geothermal Energy

Rachel Lark - December 2, 2022

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Renewable energy has become a significant point of focus for the world. Fossil fuels won’t last forever, and their carbon emissions have caused damage to the Earth because of climate change. Cleaner energy types exist, such as solar, nuclear and wind energy. But how does geothermal stack up? This guide will show the advantages and disadvantages of geothermal energy.

What Are the Advantages of Geothermal Energy? 

Geothermal energy has become a widespread energy source worldwide. In 2021, El Salvador announced that it would begin mining bitcoin by utilizing the nation’s geothermal energy facilities. It’s becoming mainstream for good reasons. Here are four advantages of geothermal energy.

1. It’s Sustainable

One of the primary advantages of geothermal energy is that it’s sustainable. It will be here as long as the Earth is. You get geothermal energy from the heat produced in Earth’s core, which can naturally replenish itself. Fossil fuels can’t say the same. Using geothermal energy doesn’t impact the planet’s temperature much, so experts say it’ll be safe to use as an energy source as long as humans need it.

2. It’s Reliable

Renewable energy is an excellent option. Any way to cut down carbon emissions is commendable because the Earth is in dire need of environmental change. How does geothermal stack up to solar, wind, nuclear and others among the clean energy sources? In some ways, you could argue it’s better.  

One of the chief advantages of geothermal energy is its reliability. Geothermal plants are more dependable than solar and wind farms. Weather can impact solar and wind energy sources, so their availability year-round comes into question. However, geothermal energy rises to the occasion. Its energy output remains steady 24 hours a day and seven days a week. Geothermal energy also can consistently produce more power than coal and natural gas. 

3. It’s Clean

The energy output must have a minimal environmental impact to be a clean source. Energy sources like hydrogen power need electrolysis, requiring water and fossil fuels to create this fuel. On the other hand, geothermal energy is clean because its plants don’t emit many greenhouse gases. They also don’t need much water, so that shouldn’t be a concern in the future as geothermal energy becomes more prominent.

4. It’s Becoming Affordable

One of the disadvantages of geothermal energy has been the price. The construction costs of plants can be high and a burden for poorer regions. Using geothermal energy could cost a hefty $4,000 to $6,000 for every kilowatt-hour. However, that concern could wain as governments take action to make it more affordable. 

In September 2022, the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) announced a goal to make geothermal energy more affordable. As mentioned above, the kilowatt-hour cost could reach as high as $6,000. But the DoE is trying to change that. Under new guidelines, the department aims to reduce costs to $45 per hour. Adding geothermal energy would be an excellent way for the United States to decarbonize. 


What Are the Disadvantages of Geothermal Energy? 

Renewable energy sources are terrific, but they’re not perfect. Geothermal energy isn’t immune from criticism, although it can benefit the world. These four disadvantages of geothermal energy are some reasons why it’s not widespread.

1. It’s Not Available Everywhere

One of the principal disadvantages of geothermal energy is its availability. Developers are unable to build a plant anywhere for this energy source. They need to develop energy plants on top of reservoirs. You can typically find these reservoirs near the boundaries of tectonic plates. Most of the geothermal energy plants in the United States are in California because of the San Andreas Fault. 

Internationally, countries like Indonesia, Kenya, the Philippines, Turkey and New Zealand are fortunate enough to have geothermal energy capabilities on their land. Iceland revolutionized its entire economy because of geothermal energy. Nearly 100% of Icelands’ power comes from geothermal energy sources. If you can find it, that’s wonderful. But not every country has that luxury.

2. It Could Cause Earthquakes

As mentioned above, geothermal energy comes from lands sitting on tectonic plate boundaries. So, the possibility exists of causing an earthquake from harvesting geothermal energy. These plants have to dig to get energy. The problem is worse with enhanced geothermal power plants. These systems allow water to flow into the planet’s crust, and instability in the ground could cause an earthquake. The odds are low, but it’s still dangerous.

Earthquakes have become a more prevalent topic as climate change gets worse. Droughts in the western United States have worsened, and they could impact earthquakes in the future. California is home to geothermal energy plants and earthquakes so they wouldn’t welcome this news. Studies have shown that drought and heavy rains caused the Sierra Nevada mountains to rise and fall, leading to stress changes on the fault.

3. It’s Expensive up Front

The United States has plans to cut geothermal energy costs over the next decade. That’s terrific news, considering how expensive this power source can be. However, it’s still costly. Besides land, the up-front costs for geothermal energy are one of the most significant burdens for investment in this clean energy. 

The United Nations (UN) has said climate change has done irreparable damage to the world, and there’s only a tiny window of opportunity left to reverse course. Can countries like the United States afford to wait for costs to come down?

4. Its Sustainability Isn’t Guaranteed

Geothermal energy is a sustainable resource. It’s renewable, so you don’t have to worry about the Earth running out of it. However, sustainability is hard to guarantee. To produce energy, geothermal plants have to source water from the ground. If they dig faster than the planet replaces water, then trouble arises because sustainability has come into question. 

Geothermal management is possible. Once the turbines generate electricity, the machines can put the water back into the reservoirs. But, improper use and supervision could lead to significant problems down the road. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Geothermal Energy

Renewable energy sources are essential for the health of Earth. Whether solar, nuclear or geothermal, these sustainable ways to get power will aid the environment humans have harmed for hundreds of years. Read this guide to see four advantages and disadvantages of geothermal energy. 


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About the author

Rachel Lark

Rachel serves as the Assistant Editor of Environment.co. A true foodie and activist at heart, she loves covering topics ranging from veganism to off grid living.