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Geothermal energy key to reducing pollution in Mexico

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This article seeks to propel the full implementation of geothermal power plants in Mexico as a renewable energy source.
It is little-exploited in the country, even though it is socially, economically and environmentally sustainable.

It is claimed that Mexico is one of the most polluting countries in the world, generating an appalling record of nearly four tons per capita each year in CO2 emissions. This article seeks to propel the full implementation of geothermal power plants in Mexico as a renewable energy source which is under-exploited despite showing sustainability disclosure at social, economic and environmental levels.

I have an ongoing involvement in the project, "The Global Dimension in Engineering Education GDEE – Mainstreaming Education on Sustainable Development". It is an initiative funded by the European Union and developed by universities and NGOs from United Kingdom, Italy and Spain. The aim of this project is to integrate principles of human development, globalization, climate change, sustainability and inequality into mainstream teaching.

As part of my participation, I have delved into research to develop technology for sustainable human development. With this essay I contribute my two cents' worth to make the world a better place. I hope to raise public awareness about the technological impact.

Mexico is among the developing countries with a high environmental impact due to the deployment of hydrocarbons, mostly derived from petroleum, which accounts for 90% of the country’s power generation. Moreover, Mexico is provided with plenty of sites of hot rocks which could be utilized to yield electricity: this source of energy is called geothermal energy.

The drive behind this essay is to give a fillip to geothermal energy production in Mexico, especially in those regions that are densely populated and industrialized. I review the evidence critically by means of five main sections.

 Boundary Conditions

Geothermal energy embodies flexibility and adaptability to local conditions; neither does it pose a challenge for the local customs nor cultural practices.

In the first place, geothermal energy meets the needs of a wide variety of users: industries, hospitals, hotels, dwellings, farms, greenhouses, monuments ... in short, any building might be adapted to a geothermal energy supply.

In the second place, geothermal energy is a renewable resource, and as I mentioned before, it is environmentally sustainable.
Making your home sustainable does not require a complete renovation. It just entails fixing a unit device or appliance which bears resemblance to a boiler. The unit installation is smooth sailing, akin to that of any boiler, and occupies the same space as an average boiler. Besides, its operating noise levels are virtually silent. Another appealing feature of this technology is its maintenance cost, which is minimal—not to mention the appliance’s life expectancy, which exceeds 30 years.

The reader might raise concerns about the compatibility of geothermal energy with other energy sources previously installed. I will tell you: it is all compatible. What is more, it is incredible to see the ease with which you can access a geothermal energy supply: once the appliance is set up, it comes down to clicking a switch.

Lastly, geothermal energy is inexhaustible; it is available 24 hours; there is not weather dependence; the savings in the electricity bill are highly likely up to 70%, and thereby may eradicate energy poverty.

Ownership and commitment

The first factor to be considered ties in with the point I made in the preceding section; that is, any person could have access to electricity through geothermal energy. The cost per unit, installation work and annual maintenance is approximately 100 USA dollars, which is a tolerable figure for the bulk of society. It is feasible that a government policy may provide loans for the have-nots.

Undoubtedly a geothermal power plant will have a positive outcome for employment. In the initial phase of its construction (development and launch), it can give rise to nearly 5,000 direct jobs, amid these blue-collar workers, white-collar workers, qualified personnel, installers, commercial workers, scientific institutions and legal personnel for proper regulation. Indirect jobs will contribute to employment growth, adding up to 10,000 jobs, stemming from the manufacturing of appliances and the components of the plant and, in turn, locally-manufactured products, as well as entertainment and leisure sectors to cater to these staff.

During the later stage, maintenance and settling may be accomplished by retaining around 1,000 direct jobs and 5,000 indirect jobs. However, as Mexico sharpens up macroeconomic stability and economy growth, the tourism sector might easily be invigorated. 

Finally, there are grounds to expect Mexico to be consolidated as a benchmark in geothermal energy generation, as a consequence of which, Mexico could endow both legal and scientific assistance to neighboring countries. By the same token, this can lead to establishing and strengthening bonds at an institutional level.

Economic viability

It is beyond dispute that building a geothermal power station is dreadfully expensive, though manageable. Mexico is eligible for financial help offered by the Clean Development Mechanism. Furthermore, I propose that the government request monetary support from the business network.

The exorbitant initial investment is recoverable within a short period of time. Not only are benefits immediate; there are also minimal operational and maintenance costs for a geothermal power plant. On top of that, the price per kilowatt is the lowest of the full range of renewable energy.

The bottom line is that the construction of a geothermal power station and its integration into society is economically viable.

Replicability

The model of business is replicable, scalable, and transferable to other countries. It would be wiser to opt for the building of small-scale geothermal power stations operating at less than 5 megawatts, in order to avoid an excessive initial investment. As economic profit is triggered, the challenge would be to gradually scale the plant up to 1000 megawatts. Implementing a divisible geothermal plant in progressive stages would forge technological innovation by the Mexican scientific institutions working together with their universities.

It should highlight the fact that geothermal energy bears fruit in other countries such as Kenya. This is an incentive for its whole development, since this technology is not novel, but as yet worthless and discarded for extended use.

Functions

To begin with, generating electricity from geothermal energy is functional, because materials available locally would be suitable for the construction of the power plant, as well as the manufacturing components for the appliances. Second, scientific attachments would remain internationally, including a legal and institutional framework for regulation. Third, steady and sustainable jobs would be created, and fourth, social equity would be achieved because everyone could afford it at a low cost.

Ultimately, a cleaner environment is central to boosting our health; as a result, it will bring significant savings in healthcare spending in the short, medium and long term.

To conclude this article, my feeling is that bringing the changes can be done if we wish. We as citizens must be the light, vindicating what is right, organizing ourselves and demanding forceful actions from our political leaders.
 
This article is part of a formal activity carried out within the GDEE project.
 

By Judit Camacho Díaz. 
ResearcherID: B-9391-2014
Orcid identifier  http://orcid.org/0000-0003-2322-2098
 
 
References:

Camacho, J. Energía geotérmica para reducir la contaminación de México.   Tendencias21.net, May 22, 2014. 

Geothermal Energy Association

World Bank data

Llamas, S., & Elena, M. Problemática institucional de las energías renovables en México.  Ola Financiera (2011). 

Mexico to develop a Risk Mitigation Program for private geothermal energy projects with support from the IDB. New Releases, June 2, 2014. Inter-American Development Bank

Repository of Documents of FAO

Arriaga, M. C. S. Evaluación del potencial, biogénesis y características esenciales de los sistemas geotérmicos submarinos en México.  Geotermia (2004). 

Mooser, F. Provincias geotérmicas de México. Boletín de la Asociación Mexicana de Geólogos Petroleros, 16, 7-8.micos submarinos en MéxicoGeotermia.
 
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