We’ve learned what geothermal energy is, and why many believe our state is a good fit for it.

So, what are the advantages of getting involved in something like this here in North Dakota?

Geothermal energy comes from the heat in the Earth’s core.

It is the third largest source of renewable energy, behind hydropower and biomass energy.

So why should our state invest in this?

“A big advantage is we’re not burning something so we’re not using up a resource that has limited quantities available and we’re not adding other pollutants like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide and so forth to the atmosphere so geothermal energy is not producing smog and it is not producing greenhouse gases,” UND Instructor Josh Crowell tells us.

Crowell tells us that there is also a much smaller physical footprint, and he says it takes less space than other power plants.

“It takes less space to have a geothermal power plant than it does to have something like a coal power plant, and a lot of people might say, ‘Wait! Coal power plants aren’t that big! But to run a coal power plant, you have to have a coal mine. Coal mines have a huge physical footprint. They take up a lot of space. With the geothermal energy, because you drill down into the ground, and whether it’s a vertical or horizontal, drilling the amount of space that you’re using on the surface is a lot less than most other forms of energy,” says Crowell.

And of course, to address those who are against it, what are the disadvantages?

“A high upfront cost with a high upfront risk makes it daunting for the people that are thinking about getting into it,” he says.

That means it costs a lot of money to build the facility, but there is a silver lining.

With coal, for example, Crowell says the upfront cost for coal is huge. Plus, for coal, you have fuel costs that you need to consider too along the way.

For geothermal energy, there is no fuel costs after building the facility.

“With geothermal energy, you have a bigger upfront cost but then you have no fuel cost. But that big upfront cost is a big disadvantage, especially when it’s combined with the risk factor geothermal energy speculation or exploration is. It’s still a growing field. It’s been around for decades, but compared to some of the other energy explorations, that’s still pretty new and young, said Crowell.

Crowell says it does not always work out either.

“There have been many times where companies or governments have attempted, you know they have done their exploration work, and they think that they have a resource. They spend the money, they drill, and there’s an issue. Either the permeability or and porosity of the rock is inadequate, and they don’t get enough water, which means they’re not bringing up enough heat. Or something else goes wrong, the temperatures not quite what they expected, and they’re not able to produce electricity,” he tells us.

Tomorrow on KX News at 10, we look into the history of geothermal energy.