International Journal of Advances in Scientific Research and Engineering-IJASRE

Geothermal Electricity Generation, Challenges, Opportunities and Recommendations

Article Category: Mechanical Engineering

DOI: 10.31695/IJASRE.2019.33408

Pages: 53-95

Author: Moses Jeremiah Barasa Kabeyi

Abstract: Geothermal energy has a potential for several applications including geo-exchange, direct thermal application and power generation.  Whereas the untapped capacity is over 100 GW globally, its growth realizes only 3-4% growth per year while the global share of electricity generation is less than 1%. Limitations of geothermal energy include scarcity of exploitable sites, remote locations often far from load centers and undesirable gaseous emissions. Project development faces challenges of poor funding, technology and long gestation periods of between 5 and 10 years for conventional power plants. Smooth implementation of geothermal project requires, social acceptance, through minimization of environmental effect, avoidance of adverse effects on the people and giving direct benefits to local communities. It is through both subsurface and power plant technologies that environmental challenges of geothermal power plants are addressed. Research and development into new, efficient and cost-effective technologies will enhance safety and environmental integrity with respect to geothermal energy and electricity development. A geothermal power plant project generally goes through exploration or prefeasibility stage, drilling or feasibility stage and development stage which involves development of production wells, reinjection wells, steam gathering system and power plant construction and commissioning. The last phase is power plant operation and maintenance before the plant is finally retired upon end of the generation contract or license. These phases of the cycle before generation all combined take relatively long and there is need to improve. The use of Wellhead power plants currently provide a quick access to geothermal electricity ahead of full development of a conventional power plant hence enabling quicker access to geothermal electricity. Drilling which is a critical process in geothermal resource exploration and development is expensive, and therefore development of geophysical methods to resolve this problem is highly desirable as it could significantly reduce the cost of geothermal energy development hence advanced technology in drilling and upfront activities will reduce costs and risks in development.  Better technology in upfront activities will significantly reduce the high risks and costs while power plant conversion technologies and better reservoir management and engineering will increase output, resource availability and efficiency of resource exploitation. Geothermal energy resources are significant and if the technical, financial, environmental, social and logistical challenges are addressed, it can be a major player in global energy and electricity market as renewable, safe and cheap resources. Research and development of technology and solutions to current challenges should be enhanced. The study concluded that technical barriers, high financial costs and long gestation periods prevent faster development of geothermal electricity.  

Keyword: Geothermal Energy, Geothermal Heat Pumps, Geothermal Electricity, Geothermal Resources, Geothermal Power Plants Technology, Geothermal Wellhead Technology, Geothermal Project Cycles, Barriers to Geothermal Development, Challenges of Geothermal Energy.

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