Advantages and disadvantages of geothermal energy
Advantages of geothermal energy
Advantages of geothermal energy in terms of electricity production:
- No intermittency (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)
- Decentralized” energy that is neutral for electrical networks
- Numerous applications for direct use of heat
- Relatively low operating costs
- Market competitive electricity production costs (LCEO)
- Long-term deposit, reservoir life of 60 to 80 years minimum
- Long life of facilities: long-life assets
Environmental and political benefits
- Clean and sustainable energy on a human scale
- No CO2 emissions, no air emissions
- Small and inconspicuous land footprint
- Alternative energy to fossil fuels
- Independence, resilience and territorial energy diversification
- Mastered by a French industr
- Territorial taxation and employment
Disadvantages of geothermal energy
- The upstream financial risk linked to the cost of an exploration drilling.
- The micro-seismicity induced during certain test phases can frighten local residents. However, by following good practices, this risk can be reduced and is generally not felt.
- Possible nuisances during the drilling phase (temporary, such as noise, truck traffic, etc.)
Extraction of critical and strategic minerals
For several years, developers and operators have been working on the recovery of minerals and metals present in geothermal fluids. Extraction processes have been successfully tested in geothermal power plants on the Rhine plain. In addition, pilots are being tested in Cornwall and in the Americas.
Industrial projects for the extraction of geothermal lithium are underway in Germany, France, the UK and the USA.
Other elements are present in the fluids, such as rare earths, tungsten, germanium… and gases (helium and hydrogen). These elements could also be the subject of extraction processes in the coming years.
The extraction of critical and strategic minerals can improve the profitability of power plants
Geothermal energy in France
Geothermal power plants in France
Currently, France has only 2 geothermal power plants for electricity production:
- The Bouillante power plant in Guadeloupe which is, since 2017, operated by Ormat.
- The Soultz-sous-Foret power plant operated by ES.Géothermie (as well as the Rittershoffen power plant, operated for heat production)
Since 2011, four developers have emerged (Fonroche, Electerre de France, ES Géothermie and Arvernes (renamed Lithium Geothermal de France). Since then, numerous permit applications have been filed. Each developer is different in its positioning. Storengy, has started to take an interest in high temperature geothermal energy in mainland France through its partnership with TLS Geothermics. Storengy also has a development underway in Guadeloupe with Teranov, a French developer based in Guadeloupe.
Since 2013, only one high temperature deep geothermal operation has been commissioned (Rittershoffen).
The last major deep geothermal operations were the wells drilled by the companies Fonroche and ES.Geothermie. These two projects are located in Alsace (Vendenheim 2017-2020 and Illkirch 2018-2019) in the Rhine basin.
The feed-in tariff for geothermal electricity in France
A feed-in tariff mechanism existed until May 2021, but the government has repealed it to comply with the EPP. The most advanced projects still fall within this tariff framework despite its abolition, notably the project by TLS Geothermics and Storengy (Geopulse for 2 units of 6 MWe).
Geothermal energy in France can be used to produce electricity but also to produce heat. This heat can be destined for the heating network such as district heating or tertiary buildings. To do this, a geothermal power plant uses hot water deposits from aquifers located at great depths.
It is also possible to produce cold thanks to geothermal energy in France and overseas. The thermal energy available from geothermal heat also allows, in some cases, to optimize the thermodynamic cycle in order to produce heat and electricity, this is called cogeneration.
Moreover, the exploitation of the geothermal fluid, allows to propose an alternative to fossil energies.
Finally, geothermal energy makes it possible to exploit a renewable energy to produce electrical energy that is non-intermittent and controllable.
Geothermal energy in France can help develop renewable energies by providing a new technical solution. It also allows us to meet today’s challenges and anticipate tomorrow’s needs. It therefore represents an ideal solution in the fight against global warming and has its place in the energy mix.