Geothermal electricity is electricity generated from geothermal energy. Technologies in use include dry steam power plants, flash steam power plants and binary cycle power plants. Geothermal electricity generation is currently used in 24 countries while geothermal heating is in use in 70 countries.
Estimates of the electricity generating potential of geothermal energy vary from 35 to 2000 GW. Current worldwide installed capacity is 10,715 megawatts (MW), with the largest capacity in the United States (3,086 MW), Philippines, and Indonesia. Geothermal power is considered to be sustainable because the heat extraction is small compared to the Earth’s heat content.
The emission intensity of existing geothermal electric plants is on average 122 kg of CO2 per megawatt-hour (MW·h) of electricity, a small fraction of that of conventional fossil fuel plants.
History and development
In the 20th century, demand for electricity led to the consideration of geothermal power as a generating source. Prince Piero Ginori Conti tested the first geothermal power generator on 4 July 1904 in Larderello, Italy. It successfully lit four light bulbs.
Later, in 1911, the world’s first commercial geothermal power plant was built there. Experimental generators were built in Beppu, Japan and the Geysers, California, in the 1920s, but Italy was the world’s only industrial producer of geothermal electricity until 1958.
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