Geothermal energy help to address expanding economies, population growth and energy intensive technology?

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Question – How can geothermal energy help to address expanding economies, population growth and energy intensive technology? Mention with reference to India. 7 March 2022

AnswerGeothermal energy is the most versatile renewable energy, and has been used for thousands of years for washing, bathing, cooking and health.

It originates from the geological processes during formation of the planet, radioactive decay of minerals etc. India has 5 geothermal provinces, and a number of geothermal springs.

Geothermal: Status and Potential in Indian Context

The ‘Geological Survey of India’ estimates the potential to be of the order of 10,000 MW produced from the 400 thermal springs distributed in different geographic, and temperature zones.

All the 400 thermal springs that have been mapped are accessible for utilization and if harnessed these springs can provide substantial energy in comparison to the current meager utilization of 200 MW. Out of the 400 thermal springs, 150 are present within the Himalayan Geothermal Belt (HGB) with temperature varying from 47o C to 87 °C. For example, the thermal provinces of Puga, Chumathang, Nubra, located near Leh and Manikaran, etc.

Following are some of advantages of geothermal energy (GE) in the present context:

Renewable source of energy:  Geothermal energy is extracted from the earth’s core, and will be available as long as the earth exists, therefore it is renewable and can be used for roughly another 4-5 billion years.

Environment friendly: Geothermal Power is green in all aspects of its production and use with absolutely zero carbon produced. Therefore, it is a proper alternative to the pollution generated due to the large population of the present.

Abundant supply: There is no fluctuation, and the resource is always available to be tapped into unlike solar or wind power. It is the most viable option for large economies.

High efficiency: Geothermal heat pump systems use 25% to 50% less electricity than conventional systems for heating or cooling, and require less space for hardware as opposed to conventional systems.

Challenges and Barriors in Geothermal Power Plant in India

Unlike traditional power plants that run on fuel that must be purchased over the life of the plant, geothermal power plants use a renewable resource that is not susceptible to price fluctuations. Most of the costs related to geothermal power plants are related to resource exploration and plant construction.

Even though Geothermal power is a Renewable power it has few barriers as follows:

  • Finding a suitable build location
  • Energy Sources like wind, solar an hydro are more popular and well established. These factors could make developers decided, against geothermal.
  • Environmental concerns about greenhouse emissions: The gases stored under earth’s surface are released into the atmosphere during digging causing environmental damage. Also, there are concerns related to H2S pollution.
  • Surface instability and earthquakes: Geothermal energy runs the risk of triggering earthquakes, as geothermal power plant construction involves drilling hot rock that contains trapped water or steam in its pore spaces.

Government’s push to promote geothermal energy:

  • The Ministry of New & Renewable Energy has released Draft Indian Geothermal Energy Development Framework stressing on the role and active participation of states.
  • Draft National Policy on Geo-Thermal Energy envisions establishing India as a global leader in geothermal power by deployment of geothermal energy capacity of 1000 MW in the initial phase till

Proactive measures to harness geothermal energy may help India in meeting its energy needs as it seeks to grow economically without losing sight of its commitments under the COP26. Combined with deployment programs and environmentally sensitive energy policies, geothermal can become a major energy contributor throughout the Indian States and in many countries around the world.

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