In this cutting edge time, human beings look just about obsessively for joy, materialistic objectives and wealth. To acquire this, we and our ancestors have abused nature, without any ethical control to this degree, to such a point where nature has been rendered practically unequipped for sustaining a healthy life. The common and valuable assets like air, water, and soil have been contaminated severely with unfortunate results.
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Humanity is presently hunting down ways and intends to stop or decrease the worldwide contamination situation, as our particular health is terrorized by the contamination. Numerous individuals and governments feel that it is irresponsible and ethically wrong to give a polluted planet to our future generations. Simultaneously, due to the incessant use of natural resources to meet the ever-growing need for energy, our natural resources are too facing the danger of coming to an end.
Assuming that humanity is fit to act with a feeling of guilt to the characteristic planet, to people and unborn future generations, we need to discover a suitable natural ethic today to contain the further escalation of such problems. The Geothermal project in Eden project is one such step taken by the British government to contribute to this very cause.
The Eden Project
The survival of all living beings on Earth depends on the existence of the plants that encompass our lives. Situated at Bodelva, in Cornwall, the Eden Project is a passage into this interesting creation of plants and individuals, investigating our worldwide enclosure legacy; revealing plants, as we’ve never perceived them before.
The Eden Project is a genuinely interesting experience, in the heart of Cornwall’s Clay Mining area; a spot to investigate the astonishing association that exists between the human residents and the entrancing universe of plants and our dependence on plants for our existence.
The Geothermal Project in the Eden Project
The Eden Project and the Engineered Geothermal Systems Energy (EGS Energy) have teamed up to explore the abundant geothermal energy present in the Cornish granite in Cornwall (Lopez, 2009). The project is equipped to use the heat generated from the water – due to radioactive decomposing of minerals – between the rocks (three to four kilometers below the earth surface); the water temperature is expected to be around 150-degree centigrade.
The generated electricity is proposed to be used for the Eden project, and the surplus electricity shall be transferred to the national grid. The Eden Geothermal Project planning application was accompanied by a detailed landscape and visual assessment.
This assessment acknowledged that the drilling rig would cause the greatest visual and landscape impact and identified that the predicted adverse effects beyond the immediate local area would predominantly arise as a result of the scale and nature of the construction stage, particularly the drilling rig.
Given the height of the drilling rig, and the fact that it would be located on the site for a temporary period, it was not considered that any further mitigation to reduce its impact would be achievable, and it was therefore considered acceptable (Cornwall Council, 2012).
Some facts that necessitated the geothermal project
The UK is approaching a stage when there will be a predictable power shortage. It is expected that by the year 2015, almost one-third of the UK’s power producing plants (coal and atomic) will have to be substituted. By the year 2020, the UK is expected to rely mainly on imported gas.
It is astonishing to note that in 2008 only 2% of the total requirement of the UK’s power came from renewable sources. Foreseeing the ensuing power problems, the UK government has targeted to produce 15% of its power requirement from renewable sources. Considering all such issues, geothermal energy seems to be the best option (Eden Project, 2008).
Implications of geothermal energy
Geothermal energy has been exhibited as both dependable and cost-effective in regions where the topography is appropriate (closeness of sweltering shakes near the Earth’s surface with suitability for penetrating). This source of renewable power is free of atmosphere or seasonal deviations and might be switched on or off consistent with interest.
Geothermal gases can hold traces of intolerable Hydrogen Sulphide and various supplementary gases (which are dangerous in the intense form). Hydrogen Sulphide might not have an impact on the climatic conditions, but it emits a sulfur smell that might be allergic to some people (Shibaki, 2003). Some of the gases above could be accordingly utilized as a part of the production of advantageous items (such as fertilizers).
Tectonic and volcanic movement is related to regions of geothermal energy, and there have been instances where earthquakes have had negative impacts (Geothermal Energy, 2013). In addition to the aforementioned implications, there are several other implications that may also be of grave concern. There are some dissolved solids such as boron and arsenic that might have a poisonous impact on the groundwater and consequently, might damage the vegetation.
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It is obvious that due to the heavy drilling process, a lot of noise occurs. “For comparison, noise levels in quiet suburban residences are on the order of 50 dBa, noise levels in noisy urban environments are typically 80-90 dBa, and the threshold of pain is 120 dBa at 2,000-4,000 Hz” (Shibaki, 2003). Geothermal sites have witnessed landslides as well. The wildlife habitat is also disturbed by the operations of geothermal projects.
The process of engineered geothermal systems (EGS) involves the artificial enhancement of rock permeability at the heat source, which involves the fracture of rocks by injecting fluids under high pressures. This, in turn, increases seismic activity. As such, it is necessary for deep geothermal developers to conduct a Seismic Hazard Assessment to identify the possibility of seismicity associated with the development and operation of the proposed geothermal system.
Such an assessment includes the evaluation of historical and current levels of seismic activity in the development site and nature of underlying geology, identification of the possibility of development inducing seismic activity, and establishment of measures to be adopted to monitor the seismic activity during site development and operation (Cornwall Council, 2012).
Before the commencing of construction operations at the Eden geothermal plant, the project’s deep geothermal developer undertook a seismic study on the potential seismic hazards of the potential development. The study considered the seismic potential associated with ‘induced’ and ‘triggered’ seismicity and this would be monitored continuously during construction and operation.
Also, EGS Energy indicated that it would establish a seismic detection network around the site to enable the development of the sub-surface reservoir to be monitored and to assist with the control of operating parameters (Cornwall Council, 2012).
The UK government is planning to spend £35 million to be capable of generating 3.2 megawatts of electricity (Goodall, 2012). This seems to be very expensive. But because the government has to spend a lot on gas imports, this seems to be a little better option. Moreover, it is also expected that the experience of companies already involved in the drilling of mines (for gas) will certainly help in bringing down the costs.
“…wells drilled 2.5 km into the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania cost $6-7m each, less than half the figure at Eden” (Goodall, 2012). It is estimated that if the expenditure of the Eden geothermal plant is brought down by £15 million, it would be at par with the power stations that are stimulated with fossil.
Solutions to the implications
Radiation is a natural process and cannot be stopped. But, “EGS Energy will have in place procedures compliant with UK legislation and best practice to ensure the safe management of any radiation” (Eden Project, 2008). The water wells are sheathed properly to contain any water spilling. Regarding the noise pollution, “With best practices, noise levels can be kept to below 65 dBa, and construction noise should be practically indistinguishable from other background noises at distances of one kilometer” (Shibaki, 2003).
Based on the analysis of various sustainability concerns in the Eden Deep geothermal project, it is evident that the planners and developers were keen in identifying as many challenges as possible that would interfere with the smooth continuity of the project. The planners considered multiple elements about the impact of the project on the natural environment surrounding it, including flora, fauna and their habitats.
There are other factors that can be considered in identifying a suitable location, and planning for the project, though it can be included in the elements discussed earlier. For instance, an analysis of the ecology of Cornwall may be necessary to prevent the establishment of deep geothermal energy facilities in locations that are close to areas of special ecological interest such as sensitive habitats and species (EGEC, 2011).
To avoid such incidents, the Cornwall Mapping Service2 identifies sites of high and protected ecological value such as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) or a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), or Cornwall Nature Conservation Site (Cornwall Council, 2012). Other elements include lighting, water, and community involvement and engagement, among others.
Even though there are several environmental implications coupled with the geothermal project, they are undoubtedly less severe than those coupled with other power production projects such as those based on fossil and nuclear.
It is expected that with the experience of the past so many years, the future EGS projects will be planned and managed in a manner that will have less impact on the environment. Thus, the geothermal projects will be free of emissions (negligible), and subsequently, the greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced, thereby, offering a trustworthy and secure source of electricity generation.
Cornwall Council. (2012). The development of deep geothermal. Renewable Energy Planning Guidance, 8(2), 9-26.
Eden Project. (2008). Retrieved from http://www.edenproject.com/support-us/future-plans/eden-deep-geothermal-energy
EGEC. (2011). The voice of geothermal energy in Europe. EGEC ASBL, 15, 63-67. Retrieved from http://egec.info/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/EGEC-News-15.pdf
Geothermal Energy. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.ukerc.ac.uk/support/Geothermal
Goodall, C. (2012). Fracking for geothermal energy as important as fracking for gas. Retrieved from http://www.carboncommentary.com/2012/12/07/2654
Lopez, M.R. (2009). Eden and EGS Energy to build the UK’s first geothermal energy project. Retrieved from http://ecoseed.org/renewables/11778-eden-and-egs-energy-to-build-the-uk-s-first-geothermal-energy-project
Shibaki, M. (2003). Geothermal energy for electric power – A REPP issue brief. Retrieved from http://www.repp.org/geothermal/geothermal_brief_environmental_impacts.html