Geothermal energy comes from the natural heat of the Earth, and requires a ‘carrier’ (hot water or steam) at a shallow depth that can be drilled and pumped to generate heat or electricity (through a steam-driven turbine). The Earth’s interior supplies an enormous quantity of heat to the crust. Various studies suggest the electrical potential of geothermal resources is 10 to 100 times the current generation. Direct use potential has similar multiples to current use. While estimating geothermal energy potential is difficult, the industry consensus is that growth will not be resource constrained over the next half century.

At the end of 2015, global installed geothermal power capacity reached 13.2 GW. The countries with the largest installed capacity were the US, Philippines, Indonesia, Mexico and New Zealand.

World geothermal heat use (direct & storage) reached in 2014 563 PJs. Roughly 40% represents direct use; the balance comprises energy used from heat pumps. China dominates heat usage with over half of the world’s consumption. Europe is the second largest user with 30% of world consumption. Direct heat use is geographically concentrated in regions above 35o latitude due to heating requirements during winter.

There are two main types of geothermal resources: convective hydrothermal resources, where the earth’s heat is carried by natural hot water or steam to the surface; and hot dry rock resources, where there is no possibility of extraction using water or steam, and other methods must be developed. Geothermal areas are categorised as low- and high-temperature fields, where high-temperature fields have temperatures over 180°C and are found around tectonic plate boundaries where volcanic activity is high. Low-temperature fields can hold a range of resources, held as heat in rocks or from water travelling through faults and fractures.

Geothermal data is sourced from the International Renewable Energy Agency (2016) and Lund and Boyd (2015) Direct utilisation of geothermal energy 2015 worldwide review.

Global Geothermal Installed Capacity

Geothermal Installed Capacity83.4GW

Geothermal Installed Capacity by region

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Top Geothermal producing countries

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Geothermal Installed Capacity by region

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