Life-Cycle Analysis Results of Geothermal Systems in Comparison to Other Power Systems

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Report: Life-Cycle Analysis Results of Geothermal Systems in Comparison to Other Power Systems

A life-cycle energy and greenhouse gas emissions analysis has been conducted with Argonne National Laboratory’s expanded Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy Use in Transportation (GREET) model for geothermal power-generating technologies, including enhanced geothermal, hydrothermal flash, and hydrothermal binary technologies. As a basis of comparison, a similar analysis has been conducted for other power-generating systems, including coal, natural gas combined cycle, nuclear, hydroelectric, wind, photovoltaic, and biomass by expanding the GREET model to include power plant construction for these latter systems with literature data. In this way, the GREET model has been expanded to include plant construction, as well as the usual fuel production and consumption stages of power plant life cycles. For the plant construction phase, on a per-megawatt (MW) output basis, conventional power plants in general are found to require less steel and concrete than renewable power systems. With the exception of the concrete requirements for gravity dam hydroelectric, enhanced geothermal and hydrothermal binary used more of these materials per MW than other renewable power-generation systems. Energy and greenhouse gas (GHG) ratios for the infrastructure and other life- cycle stages have also been developed in this study per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity output by taking into account both plant capacity and plant lifetime. Generally, energy burdens per energy output associated with plant infrastructure are higher for renewable systems than conventional ones. GHG emissions per kWh of electricity output for plant construction follow a similar trend. Although some of the renewable systems have GHG emissions during plant operation, they are much smaller than those emitted by fossil fuel thermoelectric systems. Binary geothermal systems have virtually insignificant GHG emissions compared to fossil systems. Taking into account plant construction and operation, the GREET model shows that fossil thermal plants have fossil energy use and GHG emissions per kWh of electricity output about one order of magnitude higher than renewable power systems, including geothermal power.

J.L. Sullivan, C.E. Clark, J. Han and and M. Wang

Argonne National Laboratory, 2010

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J.L. Sullivan, C.E. Clark, J. Han, and M. Wang. 2010. Life-Cycle Analysis Results of Geothermal Systems in Comparison to Other Power Systems. (!) : Argonne National Laboratory.