Problems with Geothermal Power
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Problems with Geothermal Power

A long article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists describes the environmental problems with geothermal power plants, particularly in Nevada, but also of such plants around the world. There are several geothermal power plants operating in Nevada, but expansion often causes difficulties fpr endangered species and land use. According to the article:

Lawsuits that pit wildlife and ecosystems against alternative energy projects are a dime a dozen in the American West, but solar and wind projects are most frequently in the crosshairs. Geothermal energy is by many accounts a vastly under-used alternative source, the expansion of which will be necessary as part of any broad effort to eliminate fossil fuel use and stave off the worst of the climate crisis.

Nevada and the broader Great Basin Desert are riddled with fault lines, cracks in the earth that allow hot water to circulate with ease. It’s an ideal environment for geothermal energy: using the superhot interior of the Earth to make electricity.

Even so, geothermal is a mere drop in the bucket of the United States’ present energy mix, making up less than 1 percent of the country’s overall electricity generation. The US Department of Energy would like to see it make up more than 8 percent of US generation by 2050.

Geothermal energy has many advantages. “All forms of renewable energy are great, but geothermal is 24/7, so it’s good baseload, and it is also scalable, meaning that you can scale back or scale up,” Faulds says. “And the actual physical footprint of a geothermal development is less than solar or wind.”

There’s no doubt that geothermal adoption has lagged in the United States. Between 2008 and 2015, geothermal electricity production increased only 6 percent, while solar generation in that same period soared, increasing 2,700 percent. A toad is the least of this industry’s problems.

1980 General Accounting Office report on obstacles to widespread geothermal energy adoption identified four key impediments: “lack of reliable detailed resource information; lack of proven technology for defining, extracting, and using most of the recoverable resources for electric applications; complexities of administrative and regulatory requirements on development; and insufficient knowledge of possible environmental impacts and control technology.”

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