The Cost of Geothermal Energy
Making use of geothermal energy in order to heat our homes and to generate electricity is a great idea for the future of the planet, however, the technologies involved in this process do not come cheap. This article takes a look at the cost of geothermal energy and whether or not it is worth the investment.
When looking at the cost of geothermal energy, we're best splitting this up into two key areas; geothermal power and ground source heat pumps. Both of these technologies require a completely different infrastructure with geothermal power requiring infrastructure on an industrial scale and ground source heat pumps requiring infrastructure on a residential scale.
The below sections detail the cost of these two technologies and how they apply to us as consumers.
The Cost of Geothermal Power
Geothermal power is often generated via a geothermal power station. This is an industrial facility that uses deep wells in order to inject water directly onto hot rocks. As this water is super-heated by hot rocks deep beneath our feet, steam is produced which is extracted via an "extraction well". This steam is then able to drive a turbine, thus generating electricity.
As you may imagine, the above process doesn't come cheap. The cost of such an installation is a serious investment for any power company looking to generate electricity from geothermal energy. Complex geological surveys have to be performed prior to any construction work going ahead, and even then there may be no guarantees that the wells wont cool down due to over-production (too much cold water been pumped down the injection well), thus making the installation worthless.
Geothermal power stations can easily run into the tens of millions to construct. It is estimated that the cost of installing a geothermal power station is anywhere up to $5m per MW of installed capacity.
The Cost of Ground Source Heat Pump Systems
In contrast to geothermal power stations, the cost of ground source heat pump systems tends to only run into the thousands. Whilst this may seem much cheaper and much more attractive, we have to think about the usage of such systems with power stations available to provide power to thousands of citizens whilst ground source heat pumps sometimes struggle to provide heating for one home.
Overview of the Costs
Overall, geothermal power stations may seem extortionate to construct, however once they are built and providing the installation is efficient, they have the potential to provide a significant return on investment through the sale of clean and renewable electricity. Ground source heat pumps are suited to homeowners or business that have the space, the correct property type and most of all, the upfront capital investment required to fund such systems.
- Written by James Bratley