Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy

5 Common Geothermal Energy Myths Debunked

May 8, 2017

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Geothermal energy is safe, reliable, and resides just beneath our feet. It can help meet U.S. energy demands by supplying power to our electric grid and can even be used to heat and cool homes and businesses.

So what are the facts about geothermal energy? 

We’ve targeted five common misunderstandings and reveal the remarkable truths about this amazing natural resource.

Myth: We could run out of geothermal energy

Geothermal energy is a renewable energy and will never deplete. Abundant geothermal energy will be available for as long as the Earth exists.

Myth: Renewables cannot supply energy 24/7

Geothermal power plants produce electricity consistently, running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, regardless of weather conditions. The power output of a geothermal power plant is highly predictable and stable, thus facilitating energy planning with remarkable accuracy. Geothermal power plants are also an excellent means of meeting base load energy demand (i.e. the minimum level of demand on an electrical grid during a 24-hour period).

Geothermal Infographic

Myth: Geothermal power plants take up a lot of space

Geothermal energy has the smallest land footprint of any comparable energy source in the world. They are compact and use less land per gigawatt hours (404 m2) than coal (3642 m2), wind (1335 m2), or solar photovoltaics plants (3237 m2).

Myth: Generating electrical power from geothermal sources causes pollution

Electrical power does not, by its nature, create pollution.  Modern closed-loop geothermal power plants used to generate electrical power do not emit greenhouse gases. Additionally, they consume less water on average than most conventional power generation technologies.

Geothermal Infographic

Myth: Geothermal energy is only accessible in certain parts of the United States

Geothermal heat pumps can be used just about anywhere in the United States because all areas have nearly constant shallow ground temperatures—although systems in different locations will have varying degrees of efficiency and cost savings.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Geothermal Technologies Office is working to support a range of innovative technologies designed to bring geothermal-powered electricity to regions across the nation. Most of these technologies are early- or mid-stage, but the prospects are exciting and the potential is vast – tens of millions of U.S. homes and businesses could be powered by geothermal resources in the future.