Photo of a blowout at The Geysers in California. Inset shows geothermal energy projects scattered through the United States.
Are geothermal energy resources exploitable without the attendant environmental impacts common to extraction and use of other energy resources?
Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers reviewed environmental assessment documents for more than 30 geothermal projects. The most likely adverse effects that were identified would result from geothermal atmospheric emissions, planned and accidental discharges, surface and groundwater consumption, disturbance or loss of wildlife habitat, ground subsidence, and noise.
The study included a detailed list of measures that can be implemented to prevent or mitigate the adverse effects of geothermal developments. For example, in coastal areas of the geopressured zone, spoil banks could be aligned parallel to natural drainage; roads could be routed parallel to dune ridges; and canals could be permanently blocked when no longer needed.
Eddlemon, G. K. and J. W. Webb. 1984. Ecological criteria for siting of geothermal projects. pp. xix-xli. In Proceedings of Facility Siting and Routing '84: Energy and Environment. Environment Canada, Ottawa, Canada.
Integrated Assessment Briefs. 1995. ORNL/M-4227. Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN.