Geothermal Energy Production in Non-Closed Loop Systems and Earthquakes Considered

Although geothermal energy production is not really a renewable energy source, it is often classified as such, indeed, many consider it part of the alternative energy spectrum. Okay, but why isn’t geothermal energy production renewable you ask? Well, if you use the heat to create steam to spin turbines or harness that pressure, then you have to wait until it builds back up again, if you take too much, it takes too long to build back up and thus, it’s unreliable – kind of like solar energy production at night or wind energy wind it’s calm.

Okay so, let’s talk about safety and earthquake potential challenges with geothermal energy, and before we begin let me say I am not against geothermal energy done right, nor am I a hard core opponent. I run a small think tank, and remain a skeptic but am all for what works.

Now then, there was a rather troubling article in published on September 15, 2013 titled; “Geothermal Power Plants Are Causing Earthquakes Near San Andreas Fault,” written by Alyssa Carducci, which stated among other things;

“Geothermal power plants on the southern shore of southern California’s Salton Sea are causing earthquakes in the area, just 12 miles from the San Andreas Fault, according to a newly published peer-reviewed study. The study could not determine whether the geothermal power plants may one day trigger a larger earthquake along the San Andreas Fault.”

Okay so, this was an analyzed research study of earthquakes in the region over a 30-year period, and More than “10,000 earthquakes above magnitude 1.75 occurred in the area of the geothermal power pants. The largest quake measured 5.1 on the Richter scale; cite: 1 below.”

If there is a failure of a closed loop system or if the rising and lowering of the water level in the Salton Sea causes re-distribution of the pressure upon the plate, and if that causes sea leakage into lower levels where hot molten rock is then we have a real problem. Already there is fracking going on to free-up lithium at 3000 Ft below the surface not more than 60-miles from the Salton Sea.

Playing around underground, altering the underground water flows, lake levels or anything to the contrary in an area known historically for one of the largest faults in North America really isn’t wise, and to say it’s okay, without proper review, because it is renewable or alternative energy defies logic. Please consider all this and think on it.

Cite 1: Science 2 August 2013: Vol. 341 no. 6145 pp. 543-546, DOI: 10.1126/science.1239213, “Anthropogenic Seismicity Rates and Operational Parameters at the Salton Sea Geothermal Field,” Emily E. Brodsky, Lia J. Lajoie.

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