Solar Vs Geothermal energy: Which is Right for You?

Geothermal Vs Solar Energy

Renewable sources of energy like solar, wind, hydro & geothermal energy have gained lots of attention in recent years.

Solar energy is the second most used renewable source of energy.

Also, Geothermal is used in many countries for thousands of years for heating and cooking.

Currently, it has been used in more than 20 countries for electricity generation.

Also, geothermal energy, due to its low emissions, is considered to have excellent potential for the reduction of global warming.

Both energies whether it is solar or geothermal have their own advantages and advantages.

Here, you will get to know about their working and also the technology options that these energy sources provide.

In this post, I will discuss how solar and geothermal energy works along with the pros and cons of using them.

Let’s dive right in!

What is Geothermal Energy?

Geothermal energy is the renewable energy generated and stored in the core of the earth. 

It is the underground heat leftover from the molten rocks and the radioactive decay of materials that formed earth billions of years ago.

According to the reports by the International Geothermal Association:

10,715 megawatts (MW) of geothermal power in 24 countries is online, which was expected to generate 67,246 GWh of electricity.

Geothermal Energy
Geothermal power plant

Pros & Cons of Geothermal Energy

PROSCONS
Geothermal energy is environment friendly since no combustion is required.Electricity is needed to operate heat pumps.
It is highly efficient.Lots of water requirements in wells that are used for geothermal power generation.
It is not weather dependent like any other renewable energy source such as wind or solar. Location dependency.
Geothermal power is cost-effective, reliable, and sustainable.
Long Life spans nearly that is approx. 25 years for indoor setup and more than 50 years for underground loop systems.

What is Solar Energy?

Solar energy can be defined as the energy radiated from the sun that can be converted into thermal or electrical energy.

Solar power is the conversion of energy from sunlight into electricity. And, solar panels are used to do so.

Solar panels are made of semiconductor materials such as silicon, boron, gallium, etc.

For a deep understanding of the working of solar panels, you can have a look at our previous posts.

Moreover, Solar energy is one of the best renewable sources of energy. After wind, it is the most used renewable energy around the world.

Solar Energy
Solar panel roof-top installation

Pros & Cons of Solar Energy

PROSCONS
It is a renewable source of energyWeather and location dependency is one of the disadvantages of solar energy.
Solar power is cost-effective, reliable, and sustainable.It requires a higher initial investment
Solar has a wide usage from road-side illuminators to satellites.Longer return on investment.
Solar power systems require very low maintenance.Because of the less efficiency of solar panels, solar energy is less efficient as compared to most of the other energy resources.
It also provides a high return on investment in the long run.
There are storage options available for solar energy. 

Comparison of Solar Vs Geothermal Energy

We will now compare both energy sources on the basis of below factor:

  1. Ease of Availability
  2. Production
  3. Technology 
  4. Cost
  5. Environmental impact
  6. Efficiency

1. Ease of Availability

If we see the ease of availability of resources then solar energy undoubtedly has greater priority than geothermal energy.

Geothermal energy is limited to areas near tectonic plate boundaries whereas the sun is available all around the world.

However, the efficiency of sunlight is not equal in all areas and hence geothermal energy is more useful in colder areas.

2. Production

Geothermal energy uses the earth temperature that is near the surface or that can be used by drilling miles into the earth.

Open-loop geothermal systems use groundwater from a well as a direct energy source.

If you have a well at your home, this could be a very economical solution.

Geothermal electricity generation requires water or steam at high temperatures (ranges from 300° to 700°F).

Geothermal power plants are generally built where geothermal reservoirs are located, within a mile or two of the earth’s surface.

While the production of solar power is quite easy. You just need to install solar panels on the land or at your rooftops and generate electricity.

3. Technology 

Both geothermal and solar energy has two kinds of technology:

In the case of Solar energy, we have:

  • Concentrated Solar Thermal (CST)
  • Photovoltaics(PV)

And, for Geothermal energy, we have:

  • Geothermal power plants 
  • Geothermal heat pumps

4. Cost

The initial costs for setting up a geothermal power plant is more than that of a solar power plant.

For any geothermal plant, you need 400 to 600 feet deep pipe to be drilled into the earth’s surface.

If you lease solar panels then it can range you anywhere between $0 to $3,000 while purchasing them can cost you up to $15,000 or more.

The price of the solar panel ranges depends on the type of solar panel you choose for your use.

There are a number of factors (house size, climate, type of drilling) on which the pricing of geothermal energy depends, but an average estimate will be around the $20,000 to $30,000 range.

5. Environmental impact

However, both energy sources are renewable and are environmentally friendly.

But, these also can produce negative impacts on the environment to a little extent. 

Geothermal plants can release hydrogen sulfide, it is a gas that smells like rotten eggs.

In some cases, it can be worthwhile depending on the location and the usage.

Furthermore, some of the solar thermal systems use potentially dangerous fluids to transfer heat. 

Leaks of these substances could be very harmful to the environment. U.S. environmental laws control the use and disposal of these types of materials.

On the other hand, solar panel installations have no such problems.

6. Efficiency

In terms of efficiency, geothermal power plants are more efficient than solar power plants.

High-efficiency geothermal systems are on average 48% more efficient than gas furnaces, 75 percent more efficient than oil furnaces, and 43 percent more efficient when in the cooling mode.

While the most efficient solar panels i.e monocrystalline solar panels absorb 18% of sunlight available. 

Because of cost efficiency, polycrystalline solar panels are more popular and these solar panels are 15% efficient (means that these solar panels can absorb 15% sunlight falling on its surface).

However, with the evolution of technology, now we also have bi-facial solar panels that can collect sun radiation from both sides.

Solar Vs Geothermal Energy: Infographic

The below infographic will summarize the comparison of solar vs. geothermal and provide a better understanding of it:

Pin it!

Infographic-Geothermal Vs Solar
Infographic-Geothermal Vs Solar energy

Conclusion

We have seen the comparison of solar vs geothermal energy, a comparison of two renewable energy sources.

Today, renewable energy sources make up to 26% of the world’s electricity.

International Energy Agency (IEA)stated that its share is will reach to 30% by 2024.

As per IEA’s executive director, “This is a pivotal time for renewable energy”.

Also, In the opinion of BBC, in the future, the number of renewable energy sources will continue to increase as we see an increase in demand for power.

This will drive down the price of renewables – great for the planet, and great for our wallets. 

Although, both geothermal and solar energy have different sources where they get their energy from.

Geothermal is generally used for utility purposes and because of their limited usage, these are less popular than solar power installations which have more technological advancements and wide usage.

Hopefully, you now understand these energies in a better way.

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Keerti Bhatnagar

Keerti is a tech geek with a vision to save the environment. She is from Uttarakhand, India. And, She is currently pursuing her MCA from G.B. Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, Pantnagar.

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