More than 10,000 years ago
History says that the first use of geothermal energy occurred more than 10,000 years ago in North America by American Paleo-Indians.
In The 3rd Century BC
The oldest known spa is a stone pool on China’s Lisan mountain built in the Qin Dynasty in the 3rd century BC, at the same site where the Huaqing Chi palace was later built.
In The First Century AD
Romans conquered Aquae Sulis, now Bath, Somerset, England, and used the hot springs there to feed public baths and underfloor heating. The admission fees for these baths probably represent the first commercial use of geothermal power.
In The 14th Century
The world’s oldest geothermal district heating system in Chaudes-Aigues, France, has been operating since the 14th century.
Many ancient people, including the Romans, Chinese, and Native Americans, used hot mineral springs for bathing, cooking, and heating. Water from hot springs is now used world-wide in spas, for heating buildings, and for agricultural and industrial uses. Many people believe hot mineral springs have natural healing powers.
In Late 18th Century
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.
America’s first district heating system in Boise, Idaho was powered directly by geothermal energy.
Heating system in Boise was copied in Klamath Falls, Oregon in 1900.
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.
A deep geothermal well was used to heat greenhouses in Boise in 1926, and geysers were used to heat greenhouses in Iceland and Tuscany at about the same time.
Charlie Lieb developed the first downhole heat exchanger in 1930 to heat his house.
Steam and hot water from geysers began heating homes in Iceland starting in 1943.
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.
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.
The International Geothermal Association (IGA) has reported that 10,715 megawatts (MW) of geothermal power in 24 countries is online, which was expected to generate 67,246 GWh of electricity in 2010. IGA projects growth to 18,500 MW by 2015, due to the projects presently under consideration, often in areas previously assumed to have little exploitable resource. The United States led the world in geothermal electricity production with 3,086 MW of installed capacity from 77 power plants. The largest group of geothermal power plants in the world is located at The Geysers, a geothermal field in California. The Philippines is the second highest producer, with 1,904 MW of capacity online. Geothermal power makes up approximately 27% of Philippine electricity generation.
Geothermal power today supplies less than 1% of the world’s energy 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.