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address: Inside the China University of Geosciences, 388 Lumo Road, Hongshan District, Wuhan (Wuhan)


Geothermal energy for the benefit of the people

Geothermal energy for electricity generation has been produced commercially since 1913, and for four decades on the scale of hundreds of MW both for electricity generation and direct use. The utilization has increased rapidly during the last three decades. In 2000, geothermal resources have been identified in over 80 countries and there are quantified records of geothermal utilization in 58 countries in the world. The worldwide use of geothermal energy amounts to 49 TWh/a of electricity and 53 TWh/a for direct use. Electricity is produced with geothermal steam in 21 countries spread over all continents. Five countries obtain 10-22% of their electricity from geothermal energy. Only a small fraction of the geothermal potential has been developed so far, and there is ample space for an accelerated use of geothermal energy both for electricity generation and direct applications. A comparison of the renewable energy sources (data from the UN World Energy Assessment Report) shows the current electrical energy cost to be 2-10 US?/kWh for geothermal and hydro, 5-13 US?/kWh for wind, 5-15 US?/kWh for biomass, 25-125 US?/kWh for solar photovoltaic and 12-18 US?/kWh for solar thermal electricity. Of the total electricity production from renewables of 2826 TWh in 1998, 92% came from hydropower, 5.5% from biomass, 1.6% from geothermal and 0.6% from wind. Solar electricity contributed 0.05% and tidal 0.02%. Comparing four ''new'' renewable energy sources (geothermal, wind, solar and tidal), shows 70% of the electricity generated by the four to come from geothermal with only 42% of the total installed capacity. Wind energy contributes 27% of the electricity, but has 52% of the installed capacity. Solar energy produces 2% of the electricity and tidal energy 1%. Biomass constitutes 93% of the total direct heat production from renewables, geothermal 5%, and solar heating 2%. Heat production from renewables is commercially competitive with conventional energy sources. The current cost of direct heat from biomass is 1-5 US?/kWh, geothermal 0.5-5 US?/kWh, and solar heating 3-20 US?/kWh. Geothermal energy, with its proven technology and abundant resources, can make a significant contribution towards reducing the emission of greenhouse gases.