, meaningheat) is power extracted from heat stored in the earth. Thisgeothermal energyoriginatesfrom the original formation of the planet, fromradioactive decayof minerals, and fromsolar energy absorbed at the surface. It has been used for bathing sincePaleolithictimesand for space heatingsince ancient Roman times, but is now better known for generatingelectricity. Worldwide, geothermal plants have the capacity to generate about 10gigawattsof electricity as of 2007, and in practice supply 0.3% of global electricitydemand. An additional 28 gigawatts of directgeothermal heatingcapacity is installed for
district heating, space heating, spas, industrial processes, desalination and agriculturalapplications.Geothermal power is cost effective, reliable, sustainable, and environmentally friendly, but has historically been limited to areas near tectonic plate boundaries. Recenttechnological advances have dramatically expanded the range and size of viableresources, especially for applications such as home heating, opening a potential for widespread exploitation. Geothermal wells release greenhouse gases trapped deep withinthe earth, but these emissions are much lower per energy unit than those of fossil fuels.As a result, geothermal power has the potential to help mitigateglobal warmingif widelydeployed in place of fossil fuels.The Earth's geothermal resources are theoretically more than adequate to supplyhumanity's energy needs, but only a very small fraction of it may be profitably exploited.Drilling and exploration for deep resources costs tens of millions of dollars, and successis not guaranteed. Forecasts for the future penetration of geothermal power depend onassumptions about technology growth, the price of energy, subsidies, and interest rates.
Geothermal electric power plants have been limited to the edges of tectonic platesuntilrecently.
Main article:Geothermal electricityTwenty-four countries generated a total of 56,786 gigawatt-hours (GW·h) (204 PJ) of electricity from geothermal power in 2005, accounting for 0.3% of worldwide electricityconsumption.
Geothermal electric plants have until recently been built exclusively on the edges of tectonic plates where high temperature geothermal resources are available near thesurface. The development of binary cycle power plantsand improvements in drilling andextraction technology may enableenhanced geothermal systemsover a much greater geographical range.
Main articles:Geothermal heatingandgeothermal heat pumpApproximately 70 countries made direct use of a total of 270 petajoules(PJ) of geothermal heatingin 2004. More than half of this energy was used for space heating,and another third for heated pools. The remainder supported industrial and agriculturalapplications. The global installed capacity was 28 GW, but capacity factors tend to below (30% on average) since heat is mostly needed in the winter. The above figures aredominated by 88 PJ of space heating extracted by an estimated 1.3 milliongeothermalheat pumpswith a total capacity of 15 GW.
Most of these new heat pumps are being installed for home heating.Direct heating in all its forms is far more efficient than electricity generation and placesless demanding temperature requirements on the heat resource. Heat may come fromco-generationwith a geothermal electrical plant or from smaller wells or heat exchangers buried in shallow ground. As a result, geothermal heating is economic over a muchgreater geographical range than geothermal electricity. Where naturalhot springsareavailable, the heated water can be piped directly intoradiators. If the ground is hot but