The Proper Use of Geothermal in the Design Process

Association of Construction and Development
November 12, 2012 — 1,183 views  

The Proper Use of Geothermal in the Design Process

Geothermal energy has long been considered a potentially powerful source of heat and power. When used correctly, geothermal energy can provide heat or energy at an incredibly low cost. There are, however, a number of factors involved, and geothermal energy must be used the right way. Here are a few tips on the proper use of geothermal in the design process.

The Advantages

After setting up a geothermal plant, it will provide energy for the indefinite future. Heat reserves underground are incredibly stable, and the energy they generate does not have any fuel costs involved. Further, these systems are often fairly simple to maintain; the heat generated mitigates the buildup of material that can clog the system, and repairs are generally simple. Done correctly, geothermal is one of the most reliable sources of energy available.

The Disadvantages

The initial investment is setting up a geothermal plant is high. Further, it can be difficult to accurately estimate the production a certain plant will provide. While this can be mitigated to a certain extent, there are risks involved, so those investing in geothermal will need to have extra capital ready to deal with problems. Geothermal is generally reliable, but there are potential factors that can cause a plant to perform poorly after years or decades of reliable operation. There may be regulatory issues as well, so companies will need to speak with legal experts to ensure that their plans are compliant with national, state and local regulations. Plants that work well at one location may fail on another.

When Should Geothermal be Used?

Geothermal makes the most sense in areas where others have successfully used it in the past. By knowing how the process went for others, those planning these plants can make more accurate estimates. In almost all cases, geothermal energy must be converted, and heat can be converted more easily into some forms of energy. Deriving mechanical energy from heat is fairly simple, but converting it to electricity is more complicated. Companies will need to determine how efficiently they can harness geothermal energy based on what type of energy their plant will require.

Geothermal energy presents a wonderful opportunity in some areas for some types of work, but careful planning is required. By relying on help provided by experts and those who have built geothermal installations in the past, planners can determine the feasibility of geothermal and chart the best path forward.

 

Association of Construction and Development