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Why I Believe: Geo-power is not a long term solution.

Discussion in 'U.S. Politics' started by Andy, Aug 16, 2008.

  1. Andy

    Andy Well-Known Member

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    Geo-power and why it is not a long term solution. Thanks Sil for inspiring me to write this.

    Before I begin, some say the US is behind the world in geo-power and alternative energies. The truth is we lead the world in Geothermal power. As shown on the chart, the USA leads the world with installed Geothermal capacity at 2,687 MWs. Holding the number 2 spot is the Philippines with less than half of our capacity. Actual source for the chart numbers from European Geothermal Congress 2007 (pdf format)

    This will cover the following points
    1. Cost, both in capital investment (price to build), and operational upkeep.
    2. Limited potential, both in viable locations and limited size.
    3. Potential dangers, in possible air polution and earthquakes.
    4. Common rebuttals.

    1. COST

    Capital investment, is the cost that must be paid in order to take a concept to operational power plant. Initial cost is compared in the form of $$$/per kW of installed capacity. Example: Solar Photovoltaic cells are averaging $7,000 / per kW of installed capacity. (1 MegaWatt = 1,000 KiloWatts)

    Thus, a 25 MW Solar PV plant would cost 25,000 kW X $7,000 = $175 Million.

    Since the size of the plants differ in output, the comparison is merely how much it costs per kW of installed capacity. Proponents often cite low cost of Geothermal power plants by conveniently ignoring the limited electrical production. Yes, a Geo-plant may cost a fraction of a nuclear one, but the power produced is also a fraction.

    Average cost per kW of installed Capacity:
    Nuclear Power Plant = $3,000 (Likely lower, save it for another thread)
    Hydro Power Plant = $2,000
    Traditional Coal Plant = $1,900
    Natural Gas Plant = $ 750

    Geothermal Plant = $3,700
    Source is NGSA.org in PDF format
    In order to validate the estimate, I found supporting evidence.

    Wikinvest claims $2500
    The DOE claims $3000 to $5000 (oddly cited by Wiki, as saying $2500)
    Better still, some real life examples.
    PacifiCorp Energy attempted to sell a Geothermal plant to Public Service Commission of Utah. Estimated cost = $5,538 per kilowatt. The plan was rejected.
    Queensland Australia, Geothermal proposal. Cost = $7,000 per kW.
    US Geothermal Inc. presentation for proposed Geothermal plants. Estimated cost on current projects = $4,000 - $4,500 per kW.

    Capital investment varies dramatically depending on the specific location. The cheapest being to tap an existing geothermal system, like Old Faithful at Yellowstone. Cost skyrockets when the heat source is deep, when exploratory wells must be drilled to find the heat, when the heat is dry and water must be added, when the heat is too low, when there is acidic elements to the soil or water table.

    Operational cost, is the amount of money required to run the plant. In theory, this should be very low. In practice, estimates are not so low. NGSA.org has their estimation of yearly operational cost:
    (chart located in PDF of first link)

    Nuclear Power Plant = $170K
    Hydro Power Plant = $72K
    Traditional Coal Plant = $67K
    Natural Gas Plant = $47K

    Geothermal Plant = $331K

    Information on operational costs of Geo-plants is limited. That said, the GEOTHERMAL ENERGY ASSOCIATION, released a document in PDF format. It relates the following reason for Operational expenses.

    Chemicals 1% - 15% pollution reducers, cleaning agents for wells
    Other-Misc 6% - 41% repairs - routine maintenance
    Labor 8% - 32% twenty to forty employees vs. power production
    Steam 42% - 74% Cost of producing steam

    MYTH: Geothermal plants have no fuel costs. While on a pure technical level this is true, obviously without water, there is no steam. Steam fields must be supplied with water continuously. This could be, by proxy, considered 'fuel'.

    Another major operational cost of producing steam, is the fact that every steam field will go through a decline of production. This requires more injection and retrieval wells be built.

    From the same document:

    LIMITATION ON SIZE AND VIABILITY

    Size, is the key to electrical generation. Nuclear is not cost effective because it's cheap to build, but rather, it is because of the massive output that can be produced. However, according to Wiki, most Geothermal plants are under 50 MW, and only 8 break the 100 MW range. As opposed to Nuclear that defaults at 1 GW. (see chart Nameplate Capacity Range by Generator Type)

    The reason for this is that a geothermal heat source is not exactly infinite. As stated by Valgerdur Sverrisdottir (I can type it, not say it), Minister of Industry and Commerce in Iceland


    There is a great danger in over tapping a heat source, either by making the plant too big, or by having too many power plants tapping the same general spot.

    For example, The Geysers of California in 1989 had an installed capacity of 2043 MW from 22 plants. Yet current output is 750 MW. This article, written in the late 80s, details how production dropped consistently as each new well and power plant came online. This makes geothermal risky to investors.

    Viability, is where a heat source can be economically tapped. This ignores how long it can be tapped and at what power out put can be accomplished, which is a problem as list above.

    This is where it can be tapped at all. The GEOTHERMAL ENERGY ASSOCIATION, in the PDF listed above, shows the following factors that can place a heat our out of economic viability.

    Knowing exactly where the heat is. Unknown heat sources require expensive exploratory drilling.
    The depth of the heat. How far down you must go, add onto the cost exponentially.
    Supply of water. Water at the heat source reducing the cost of supplying water.
    Acidity. If the area around the heat source has high acidic qualities, this can damage equipment. That requires expensive counter-measures.
    Amount of heat available. Overestimating the heat available, results in the Iceland and The Geysers situations, where production is less than half the installed capacity.

    All of these factors and more can quickly result in a heat source being uneconomically viable.

    POLLUTION AND EARTHQUAKES

    Pollution, from Geothermal plants comes from the production wells. The water from the geothermal source is normally saturated with different elements. The steam is vented, thus releasing those elements. Arizona State University says that pollution includes radon gas, hydrogen sulfide (H2S), CO2, methane, and ammonia. This was supported by information from France, but I could not find the link at this time. (Please duly note the supposed green house gasses we are not using "fossil fuels" in order to avoid releasing)
     
  2. Andy

    Andy Well-Known Member

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    Earthquakes. There is no need to explain what they are. The link between Geothermal power plants, and seismic activity is undeniable and abundant.

    Geothermal plant in Basel Switzerland, has caused two separate earthquakes, one a 3.4, and the other a 3.1. Both were centered on the power plant cite.

    Recently, some areas near The Geysers geothermal field in California have been experiencing increased seismic activity.

    Any fluid injection deep into the ground can cause earthquakes, and large ones. In the 60s, the US Army attempted to dispose of contaminated fluids by injecting them into a 4 km deep well. Months later thousands of earthquakes rocked the area, some of which were over 5.0 on the scale.

    A list of man made earthquakes due to water injection.

    COMMON REBUTTALS

    Geothermal is new and largely experimental. Geo-Energy.org disagrees. Geothermal power is well developed and widely used across the planet.

    Geothermal is not support by our government. Geothermal power is already given a tax credit of 1.9 per kwh, and still is more expensive than most other power sources.

    Geothermal is suppressed by US BigOil. I have no link for this one because... it's stupid. No one anywhere can detail for me how or when or where BigOil has suppressed Geothermal power. In fact, no one can even show me a motive for it. This is especially stupid since I already proved US leads the world in Geo-power. As soon as I fill up my Buick with Geo-power, and turn on my computer with Regular Unleaded, then we'll talk about what conflict BigOil has with Geo-power.

    CONCLUSION
    In essence, Geothermal power has a great limited future for supplying some electrical power in specific instances. However, beyond this, it does not constitute a permanent long term power generation solution.
     
  3. GenSeneca

    GenSeneca Well-Known Member

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    Where is the "applause" Smilie when you need it?

    Excellent job Andy! :)
     
  4. top gun

    top gun New Member

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    As necessity is the mother of invention there will come a time when almost nothing runs on oil or coal. All technology starts out prohibitively expensive and then drops like a rock as more and more go on line and improvements are made.

    I agree that there is a "phase in period" but a phase in it must be. We need a diversified but also honest overall plan of change. Senator Obama is dead on saying the "goal" is to actually move in a new direction not just do an old thing a slightly newer way.

    I could see one nuclear power plant being added to the grid possibly up north where it's colder (cooling is an issue with nuclear) and solar and wind don't add as much up there.

    I think the Oil Companies should be forced to "use it or lose it" when it comes to much of the millions of acres of oil leases they already hold but are not drilling on. If it's worth holding the lease on it's worth drilling on... or turn it in and seek approval for something else.

    Then you have wind farms where it's windy. Solar where it's sunny. Geothermal where it's most practical. Push efficiency standards & technology to get the most out of the oil we do use.

    There's a lot of little things that add up too. For instance. There is no reason why any vehicle uses oil as an engine lubricant. All new cars should be required to use synthetic which not only last longer... it's better.

    It's a comprehensive approach to bridge where we are now to where we want to be.

    I remember when the computers at work didn't even run Windows everything was DOS (see I'm very old :)). They were huge, slow & inefficient and cost an absolute fortune. So expensive in fact most people couldn't even think about having one at home.

    The basic modern home computer now is like 4 times more powerful than the technology that NASA used to go to the moon. And anyone can just walk into a store and pick one up for what... $400 and up now.

    We move forward in ways we never think are possible... but we do!
     
  5. Sihouette

    Sihouette Active Member

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    Andy Andy Andy....lol...

    Earthquakes? Really? :rolleyes: Geothermal plants cause earthquakes?

    Now I've heard everything.

    So folks, just to be clear, if you walk up to a boiling water pot, one of hundreds all over the Owen's Valley for instance, and insert an "in" pipe and an "out" pipe, you're in danger of setting off the San Andreas fault! Or any other fault... Didn't know that. Well we'd better rule out oil drilling then. Don't want any earthquakes!....LOL!

    You BigOil people just keep reaaaaccching and reaaaaching out there to beat back alternatives.

    Guess what? The tide has already turned against you. The best you can do is sell your oil stock and buy alternative. Why whine and lie and cajole when you can just readjust your finances to realistic futures?

    You might have been around when the new millenium started? Quit investing your every iota of energy towards yesterday's energy and invest in what is sitting on your doorstep right now.

    It's going to happen anyway. Why get left behind??
     
  6. foggedinn

    foggedinn New Member

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    He did mention water injection along some fault lines as being a problem. I'm not really sure of the science, but if you must mock, at least do it for what he said. I am aware that water expands in volume by a factor of 1400 times when it converts to steam and could see how it might affect geothermal faults.

    I would like to question the cost structure presented as concerns natgas v. coal. These figures must leave out the cost of the fuels. I worked many years at a plant that had two 500mw coal units and two 500 mw gas fired combined cycle units. Although the gas units had it all over the coal units in operational flexibility, energy efficiency, and ease of operation; the cost of fuel made the coal units cheaper to run.
     
  7. GenSeneca

    GenSeneca Well-Known Member

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    Another Leftist talking point...

    Ok Top Gun... Prove you know more than what you're spoonfed:

    1. Once you get a bran new lease, what needs to be done before you can drill? (its a lot, so be detailed)
    2. Who will file law suits and litigation to prevent you from seeing if there is oil on the land before you can drill? (Hint: Think Green)
    3. Assuming you get past the first steps, you've found oil and are ready to drill - what things (there are multiple) can prevent you from actually tapping the resource?

    I already know and so do the Leftists that gave you that bumpersticker slogan... but they won't tell you the entire story - only enough to keep you PIST at the Oil Companies so you will be on board for stealing their profits.
     
  8. Sihouette

    Sihouette Active Member

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    Hey!!

    Geothermal causes earthquakes and nuclear is better!!

    (I know because this thread has five stars!!)

    It HAS to be true!!

    Steam really doesn't pour from the ground for the taking. Nuclear is so much cheaper! And safer!!!

    Hey, this parallel universe stuff is FUN!
     
  9. Andy

    Andy Well-Known Member

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    For the record... you said to learn more about Geothermal Power. So I did.

    Isn't it odd that last time we talked you balked at my responses saying I didn't have any links, any evidence. Now I have them. Yet you are mocking the evidence without responding to it. I'm shocked... so very shocked. At least you are on Nuclear as the competitor instead of BigOil. Maybe you did learn something after all.

    Yes Geothermal power does cause earthquakes. This is natural. All geothermal systems cause earthquakes, whether natural or artificial.

    In a natural system, earthquake are normally very small, imperceptible to humans. If a system like this is tapped for power, adding water to it, normally isn't an issue because it's a naturally existing system. You just provide it with more fuel.

    However, with the Swiss power plant, this was not the case. Hot Dry Rock systems, is where you find a heat source with no existing geothermal system. As such, you must create a geothermal system by pumping water down to the rock, then using high pressure and sometimes acidic chemicals, you actually break up the rock formations, fracturing it, and making it permeable.

    The rock layer must be broken up in order for water to flow through and absorb the heat. Of course... doing that to rock layers so deep in the ground... obviously causes earthquakes... and large ones. The largest recorded so far is 4.5.

    This is why I only support geothermal power in existing systems, not Hot Dry Rock artificial systems. Of course that limits geo-power to 1/4 of the possible suitable locations.

    Again, the fact geothermal power plants cause earthquakes is well established. Take a look at the list I provided on the second post. It's fairly long.
     
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