Friday, February 8, 2013

Geothermal energy environmental impact

Renewable energy sources are generally being described as environmentally friendly and geothermal energy is in this sense no exception. Geothermal energy cannot be described as the perfect energy source from the environmental point of view, but it definitely has lot more positive impact on environment than fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) do.

First of all, harnessing geothermal energy does not have the devastating impact on climate change like burning of the fossil fuels does. It is true that fluids drawn from the earth's core include greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, but the amount of released greenhouse gas emissions is negligible compared to those from fossil fuel fired power plants. In fact, the average geothermal plant emit an average of 122 kilograms (270 lb) of CO2 per megawatt-hour of generated electricity, which is tiny amount compared to fossil fuel fired power plants. One of the reasons for this is the fact that geothermal power plants are equipped with emission-control systems that reduce the exhaust.

Geothermal fluids contain elevated levels of certain toxic elements such as arsenic, mercury, lithium and boron, which means that geothermal plants need to be equipped with proper waste disposal units in order to ensure that the waste is disposed back into geothermal fields instead of, for instance, ending up in near water bodies where it can create major environmental damage.

From the environmental perspective it is also important to mention that geothermal power plants are connected with minimal freshwater and land requirements. This means that geothermal energy commonly has minimal impact on nearby ecosystems.

The only real environmental downside of harnessing geothermal energy is that constructing geothermal plant (which includes deep drilling) can affect land stability, and in some cases even trigger earthquakes (especially enhanced geothermal systems).

Geothermal power plants operate quietly meaning that they do not cause noise pollution. It is often relatively easy to incorporate them into the existing environment without the obvious visual pollution because of their modest land requirements.

To conclude, harnessing geothermal energy with proper care causes negligible damage to environment and is certainly from the environmental perspective one of the best clean energy options. This natural source of energy provides efficient way to harness energy from with minimal impact on its surrounding environment.