History says that the first use of geothermal energy occurred more than 10,000 years ago in North America by American Paleo-Indians. People used water from hot springs for cooking, bathing and cleaning.
Geothermal Energy History
The first industrial use of geothermal energy began near Pisa, Italy in late 18th century. Steam coming from natural vents (and from drilled holes) was used to extract boric acid from the hot pools that are now known as the Larderello fields.
In 1904, Italian scientist Piero Ginori Conti invented the first geothermal electric power plant in which steam was used to generate the power.
With the above experiment, the first geothermal plant in USA started in 1922 with a capacity of 250 kilowatts. It produced little output and due to technical glitch had to be shut down. However, in 1946 first ground-source geothermal heat pump installed at Commonwealth Building in Portland, Oregon
During the 1960’s, pacific gas and electric began operation of first large scale geothermal power plant in San Francisco, producing 11 megawatts. Today there are more than 60 geothermal power plants operating in USA at 18 sites across the country.
In 1973, when oil crisis began many countries began looking for renewable energy sources and by 1980’s geothermal heat pumps (GHP) started gaining popularity in order to reduce heating and cooling costs.
As effect of climate change started showing results, governments of various countries joined hands to fight against it, for which Kyoto Protocol was signed in Japan in 1997, laid out emission targets for rich countries and required that they transfer funds and technology to developing countries, 184 countries have ratified it.
Geothermal power today supplies less than 1% of the world’s energy in 2009 needs but it is expected to supply 10-20% of world’s energy requirement by 2050. Geothermal power plants today are operating in about 20 countries which are actively visited by earthquakes and volcanoes.