Geothermal energy is an economically viable source of energy and can be harnessed for use. Though various parameters govern the economic feasibility of harnessing a source of energy, scientists and geologists are optimistic regarding this energy form.
The quest to find and implement alternative energy sources in our lifestyles has led to some extensive research by the scientific fraternity in the field of power consumption and alternative energy sources. Geothermal energy, an energy that utilizes the Earth’s interior heating systems, has been very productive in countries where hot geysers and hot water springs are found in abundance. Worldwide geothermal energy has been recognized for being a viable alternative energy source. Globally, geothermal heating and cooling systems have been used in various homes for desalination works, spas, and framing systems. Like every energy system, there are various pros and cons of this form of energy too, and the most important factor that can go a long way in the implementation process, is its financial viability.
If any of the alternative energy sources is to be considered as a long-term solution to address the increasing global energy demands, then it must be cost-effective and easily available to people, so that it can be included as an economical source of energy. On the contrary, if the operational cost is very high, then it would be not feasible for private firms and governments to invest billions of dollars into it. So, indeed, cost turns out to be a major factor that will determine the success of this energy form.
Consider the cost of geothermal energy producing heat pumps that are installed in homes. In general, they cost about $2,500 per ton of capacity. For the normal home sizes, a 3-ton pump is generally required, and this makes the cost about $7,500. Added to these are the costs of various parameters, like the cost of drilling, that can range between $10,000 to $30,000. So, for homeowners, the total cost incurred turns out to be nearly two to four times the cost of a regular heat pump system. But then, the rate of return is substantial, and you can drastically cut down on electricity bills. The maintenance cost is quite low, as the heat pumps have been known to be very durable.
Generally, the cost depends on the type of plant installed. In the US, generally, geyser plants sell power at the rate of $0.03 to $0.035 per kWh. Some plants even charge more, when the demand for this energy form is high during a certain period, especially for electricity generation purposes. Besides this, the cost of establishing a plant to harness it is quite high. The early expenses in maintaining the plant are usually more than required in various other energy plants. Well drilling, pipeline construction, and resource analysis are some of the crucial steps that are required to set up a geothermal energy plant. In the US, generally, $25,000 per installed KW is the cost of installation. The maintenance cost is usually between $0.01 to $0.03 per KW. Geothermal plants are just like nuclear energy or solar power, as it is capital intensive.
The costs face certain limitations due to the technology that is required for drilling and exploring a geothermal site. Besides, not every place can be explored, as hot water under the ground is not found in many regions of the world. When oil prices are very high, the drilling costs simultaneously are pushed up, which eventually makes the overall cost higher.
According to experts, as long as innovative technologies are not developed to harness this energy, it is very likely that the costs to harness it can be quite high. Also, this energy can only be tapped only in geographically active areas, so it is costlier to transfer it to other areas. As people have shown increased interest in these energy forms, they’ve become popular in the US, and we can hope that this renewable energy will help us meet our increasing energy demands, at least a little.