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Potential advantages of Geothermal Power Generation in Australia

  • Baseload and peaking capability: Geothermal power-plants can operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and are unaffected by climatic factors.
  • Low CO2 emissions: Binary geothermal power plants could be zero-emission (no CO2 or oxides of nitrogen and sulphur).
  • High availability factors: Binary power plants can usually produce electricity for 95% of the time.
  • Low environmental impacts: No acid rain, mine spoils, open pits, oil spills, radioactive wastes, or damming of rivers. Binary power plants occupy small land areas.
  • Increased energy security: Geothermal is an indigenous supply of energy, providing energy supply and pricing security.

     

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Excerpt from Future of Geothermal Energy

USA Centric View

There are several compelling reasons why the United States should be concerned about the security of its energy supply for the long term. They include growth in demand, as a result of an increasing U.S. population, along with increased electrification of our society. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA, 2006), U.S. nameplate generating capacity has increased more than 40% in the past 10 years and is now more than 1 TWe. Most of this increase resulted from adding gas-fired combined-cycle generation plants. In addition, the electricity supply system is threatened with losing existing capacity in the near term, as a result of retirement of existing nuclear and coalfired generating plants (EIA, 2006).

It is likely that 50 GWe or more of coal-fired capacity will need to be retired in the next 15 to 25 years because of environmental concerns. In addition, during that period, 40 GWe or more of nuclear capacity will be beyond even the most generous relicensing procedures and will have to be decommissioned.

The current nonrenewable options for replacing this anticipated loss of U.S. base-load generating capacity are coal-fired thermal, nuclear, and combined-cycle gas-combustion turbines. While these are clearly practical options, there are some concerns. First, demand and prices for cleaner natural gas will escalate substantially during the next 25 years, making it difficult to reach gas-fired capacity. Large increases in
imported gas will be needed to meet growing demand – further compromising U.S. energy security beyond just importing the majority of our oil for meeting transportation needs. Second, local, regional, and global environmental impacts associated with increased coal use will most likely require a transition to clean-coal power generation, possibly with sequestration of carbon dioxide. The costs and uncertainties associated with such a transition are daunting. Also, adopting this approach would accelerate our consumption of coal significantly, compromising its use as a source of liquid transportation fuel for the long term. It is also uncertain whether the American public is ready to embrace increasing nuclear power capacity, which would require siting and constructing many new reactor systems.

On the renewable side, there is considerable opportunity for capacity expansion of U.S. hydropower potential using existing dams and impoundments. But outside of a few pumped storage projects, hydropower growth has been hampered by reductions in capacity imposed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), as a result of environmental concerns. Concentrating solar power (CSP) provides an option for increased base-load capacity in the Southwest where demand is growing. Although renewable solar and wind energy also have significant potential for the United States and are likely to be deployed in increasing amounts, it is unlikely that they alone can meet the entire demand.
Furthermore, solar and wind energy are inherently intermittent and cannot provide 24-hour-a-day base load without mega-sized energy storage systems, which traditionally have not been easy to site and are costly to deploy. Biomass also can be used as a renewable fuel to provide electricity using existing heat-to-power technology, but its value to the United States as a feedstock for biofuels for transportation may
be much higher, given the current goals of reducing U.S. demand for imported oil.

Using reasonable assumptions regarding how heat would be mined from stimulated EGS reservoirs (USA), we also estimated the extractable portion to exceed 200,000 EJ or about 2,000 times the annual consumption of primary energy in the United States in 2005. With technology improvements, the economically extractable amount of useful energy could increase by a factor of 10 or more, thus making EGS sustainable for centuries.

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