Geothermal Energy Facts

Geothermal energy is a renewable energy source that derives from the heat of the earth’s core and has long been used for a variety of purposes. In this article you will find various geothermal energy facts surrounding what this energy source is, how we can use it and the history behind it.

Some interesting facts about geothermal energy

These facts provide a good top-level overview of geothermal energy:

  • Geothermal energy has been around since the earth formed and is a renewable energy source.
  • The term “Geothermal” derives from the Greek words “geo” (meaning earth” and “therme” (meaning heat).
  • Geothermal activity provides the energy behind volcanoes, hot springs and geysers.
  • Civilisations have been using hot springs heated by geothermal activity for thousands of years.
  • Geothermal energy is greater along the fault lines in the earth’s crust as liquid rock (magma) can be found closer to the earth’s surface, thus providing more geothermal activity.
  • The best place for geothermal activity is along the “Ring of Fire”.
  • Unlike solar, wind and other renewable energy sources, geothermal energy doesn’t rely on solar activity.

Facts specific to geothermal power

These facts are specific to how we can produce electricity from geothermal energy:

  • The process of generating geothermal power has been in existence for over a hundred years and was first tested in Italy by Piero Ginori Conti in 1903.
  • Today, geothermal power is only responsible for a small amount of global electricity capacity.
  • Modern geothermal power generation is performed at either dry steam, flash steam or binary cycle power stations.
  • Geothermal power can be highly price competitive.
  • Geothermal power can only be generated cost-effectively in specific areas with enough geothermal activity.
  • Geothermal power is considered clean and highly efficient.
  • Geothermal power stations do still produce greenhouse gases but on a very small scale when compared with fossil fuel power stations.
  • Geothermal power stations are often small and have minimal visual impact on the surrounding environment.
  • Geothermal power stations can work both day and night with a high uptime.
  • There are over 40 geothermal power plants in the USA alone with many more dotted across the globe.
  • In the USA, California has the highest geothermal power capacity and generates just over 80% of the nations geothermal power supply.
  • Iceland has the world’s most efficient geothermal power stations and is responsible for a large percentage of global geothermal electricity production.
  • Iceland produces around 26% of its electricity supply from geothermal energy.
  • New Zealand generates around 13% of its electricity from geothermal activity.
  • Other countries that generate significant levels of geothermal power are; Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico and Philippines.

Facts specific to geothermal heating

These facts are specific to how we can use geothermal energy for heating purposes:

  • Geothermal energy can also be used to provide heating for homes. This technique makes use of ground source heat instead of the geothermal activity described above.
  • Geothermal heat pumps can be used to produce part or all of a buildings hot water supply.
  • Geothermal heat pumps work by burying hundreds of meters of water pipes under ground so that the water absorbs the heat from the earth.

An overview of the facts

Overall, geothermal energy is seen as a highly efficient, renewable and environmentally friendly source of energy. We can use this energy to provide electricity through geothermal power stations or to heat our homes through the use of ground source heat pumps. Geothermal energy has been around since the earth formed and man has been known to use this for bathing purposes for thousands of years.

Further Information

For more information on geothermal energy, check out the following websites:

  • National Geographic – Information on geothermal energy from National Geographic.
  • Wikipedia – The main geothermal energy page on Wikipedia has some interesting facts.