The utilization of geothermal resources to produce electricity has been increasing since the invention of the first geothermal energy generator by Piero Ginori Conti in Italy in 1904.
By 2022, there are more than one hundred geothermal power plants located around the world producing electricity with a total installed capacity of 16127 MW.
Want to know when and where the first geothermal power plants were set up around the world?
Here are the first geothermal power plants built in significant geothermal energy-producing countries.
THE LARDERELLO PLANT – ITALY – 1913
The first and the oldest geothermal power plant in the world is in Larderello in Italy.
Following the invention of the first geothermal energy generator by Piero Ginori Conti in 1904, the Larderello 1 geothermal power plant was completed in 1913 with a capacity of 250 kW.
The Larderello area now has 34 geothermal power plants having a total capacity of 800 MW.
By the way, the Larderello steam field is so awesome that it is referred to as Valle del Diavolo – Devil’s Valley.
Today, Italy has a total installed capacity of 944 MW making it the seventh-largest geothermal energy producer in the world.
WAIRAKEI PLANT – NEW ZEALAND – 1958
New Zealand is the second country in the world that built a geothermal power plant.
The first geothermal plant in New Zealand, the Wairakei Unit 1 station was completed in 1958 with a capacity of 11.2 MW. The Wairakei geothermal plant is located at North Taupo.
Today, the Wairakei geothermal power plant has a total combined capacity of 330 MW provided by Wairakei power stations 1 to 16, Te Mihi power stations 1 and 2 and Poihipi power station.
The number of geothermal power plants in New Zealand has grown to 15 producing 1037 MW of electricity making it the fifth-largest geothermal producing country in the world.
THE GEYSERS UNIT 1 PLANT – USA – 1960
The first geothermal power plant in the US is located at the Geysers. The Unit 1 plant was completed in 1960 with a capacity of 11 MW.
The Geysers geothermal field in California is the most prolific geothermal producing field in the US also in the world. It now has 18 geothermal power plants and a total installed capacity of 1590 MW.
Today the US with more than 69 geothermal power plants located in various states has a total installed capacity of 3794 MW. This makes the US the biggest geothermal energy producer in the world.
MATSUKAWA PLANT – JAPAN – 1966
The first geothermal power generation plant in Japan is the Matsukawa Geothermal Power Plant (Matsukawa Jinetsu Hatsudensho).
The plant started operating in 1966 with an initial capacity of 9.5 MW. It now has an installed capacity of 23.5 MW.
Today, Japan is the tenth largest geothermal-producing country in the world with a total installed capacity of 621 MW. Japan has the highest density of geothermal power plants. According to the Geothermal Research Society of Japan, there are 19 geothermal power plants in Japan with capacities of greater than 1 MW, and many small plants with capacities ranging from 20 KW to 250 KW.
BJARNARFLAG PLANT – ICELAND – 1966
Bjarnarflag geothermal station is the oldest geothermal power plant in Iceland. Bjarnarflag was completed in 1966 having a capacity of 3 MW.
Following the success of the Bjarnarflag plant, several other power plants were built in Iceland.
Iceland, the land of ice and fire, is a natural place to tap its geothermal resources for energy. The country today produces 754 MW of electricity from its geothermal resources making it the ninth-largest geothermal producer in the world.
As 99.96% of its energy needs come from renewable resources, it is probably the greenest country in the world.
CERRO PRIETO PLANT – MEXICO – 1973
The first geothermal power plant in Mexico, Cerro Prieto 1 was commissioned in April 1973.
The Cerro Prieto field is the world’s largest known water-dominated geothermal field. It has five power stations with a total installed capacity of 820 MW.
Today, Mexico, generating 963 MW of electricity is the sixth-largest geothermal energy producer in the world.
KIZILDERE PLANT – TURKEY – 1974
The first geothermal power plant in Turkey is in Kizildere.
The Kizildere geothermal power plant began its operation in 1974 as a prototype system with a 500 KW capacity.
Ten years later, the Kızıldere Jeotermal Elektrik Santralı plant was commissioned in 1984 with an installed capacity of 17.4 MW.
In 2013, the Kizildere Geothermal Power Plant reached an installed capacity of 95 MW making it Turkey’s biggest.
Today, with a total of 1710 MW capacity, Turkey is the fourth largest geothermal energy producer in the world.
AHUACHAPAN PLANT – EL SALVADOR – 1975
The Ahuachapán plant, completed in 1975, is the first geothermal power plant in El Salvador.
The journey of geothermal development in El Salvador began with exploration in 1955 for its geothermal potential, followed by the drilling of its first geothermal well in 1968.
The country’s first 30 MW Unit 1 Ahuachapán geothermal power plant was subsequently completed in 1975.
Two more power stations were later added – 30 MW Unit 2 in 1976 and 35 MW Unit 3 in 1981 – giving the Ahuachapán power plant a total installed capacity of 95 MW.
The Ahuacapan plant is served by 21 steam production wells and 9 reinjection wells.
Today El Salvador has two geothermal plants, the 95 MW Ahuachapan plant and the 104 MW Berlin plant giving the country a total installed geothermal capacity of 204 MW.
These two power plants generate 21% of the electricity in El Salvador. El Salvador is one of the countries having the highest percentage of electricity generated from geothermal resources.
The contribution of electricity from geothermal resources is set to increase in the future as the country is endowed with significant geothermal potential.
LEYTE PLANT – THE PHILLIPPINES – 1977
The first geothermal power plant in the Philippines, the Leyte Geothermal Power Plant began operation in 1977.
Located on the island of Leyte, the plant started as a pilot plant using a portable 3 MW power generation unit connected to a wellhead.
With the success of the pilot plant, Leyte island now has five geothermal power plants.
Other geothermal plants in the Philippines are in the islands of Luzon, Mindanao, and Negros.
Today the Philippines with a total installed capacity of 1935 MW is the third largest geothermal energy producer in the world.
OLKARIA I POWER STATION – KENYA – 1981
Olkaria I Geothermal Power Station is the first geothermal power plant in Kenya and Africa. The first unit having a capacity of 15 MW was commissioned in 1981.
Several units were added to the Olkaria I facility in later years bringing its total installed capacity to 185 MW by 1985.
Today Kenya has a total installed capacity of 944 MW making it the eighth largest geothermal energy producer in the world.
KAMOJANG PLANT – INDONESIA – 1982
Operating since 1982, the 235 MW Kamojang geothermal plant is the first geothermal power plant in Indonesia. It is located in the Garut area in West Java.
The Kamojang geothermal reservoir was first discovered by the Dutch more than one hundred years ago when it successfully drilled the first steam-producing well in Indonesia.
Today Indonesia has a total installed capacity of 2356 MW making it the second-largest geothermal energy producer in the world.
MOMOTOMBO PLANT – NICARAGUA – 1983
The Momotombo plant is the first geothermal power plant in Nicaragua.
Its first power generating unit of 35 MW was completed in 1983. A second 35 MW unit was later added in 1989 bringing the total capacity to 70 MW.
Nicaragua’s second geothermal plant is the San Jacinto Tizate which was completed in 2013 with an installed capacity of 72 MW.
MIRAVALLES PLANT – COSTA RICA – 1994
The first geothermal power plant in Costa is the 55 MW Miravalles plant commissioned in 1994.
Today with a total installed capacity of 207 MW, Costa Rica is the twelfth largest geothermal producer in the world.
ORTITLAN PLANT – GUATEMALA – 1998
The first geothermal power generation unit in Guatemala was built in Amatitlán geothermal area in 1998. It started as a portable power plant of 5 MW.
A full-scale 20 MW geothermal power plant, the Ortitlan, was later built in the Amatitlan area in 2008.
Guatemala’s second geothermal plant, the Orzunil, located in the Zunil geothermal area was completed with a capacity of 24 MW in 2001.
CERRO PABELLON PLANT – CHILE – 2017
The first geothermal power plant in Chile was built in 2017 by Geotermica del Norte (GDN), a joint venture between Enel Green Power Chile and ENAP.
Located at 4500 meters above sea level, the Cerro Pabellón is the highest geothermal plant in South America. It is located on the high plateau of the Atacama Desert in the Antofagasta Region of Chile.
The plant, which uses high enthalpy technology with a binary cycle, is the only operational geothermal plant in South America.
Its third power station with a capacity of 33 MW was completed in 2021 giving Cerro Pabellon a total power of 81 MW.
PLATANARES PLANT – HONDURAS – 2018
The first geothermal power plant of Honduras, the 35 MW Platanares geothermal plant was inaugurated in 2018.
CASANARE PLANT – COLOMBIA – 2021
Colombia inaugurated its first geothermal power unit located in Casanare in March 2021.
The first of its kind, this innovative 100 KW power unit takes advantage of the hot water produced along with the oil from the Las Maracas field.
YANGBAJAIN PLANT – TIBET – 1977
Yangbajain is the first geothermal power plant in Tibet, China. The plant was initially completed in 1977. It now has an installed capacity of 24 MW.
The Yangbajain plant is located at an elevation of 4800 meters above sea level making it the highest geothermal plant in the world.
QINGSHUI PLANT – TAIWAN – 2021
The Qingshui geothermal power plant is the first privately run commercial-scale geothermal power plant in Taiwan. With an installed capacity of 4.2 MWe, the plant is owned jointly by Fabulous Power Co and Taiwan Cogeneration Corp under build-operate transfer and rehabilitate-operate-transfer models with equipment from Ormat Technologies.
The Qingshui geothermal power plant started to operate in October 2021 and was officially inaugurated in November 2021.
Located in Yilan, Taiwan, the reservoir temperature is around 180 degrees Celsius at a depth of 1,200 to 2,100 meters.
Its current 38 million kWh power output is enough to meet the demand of about 75% of the 10,000 households of the combined Datong and neighboring Sanshing townships.
Aluto Langano – Ethiopia
Ethiopia expects to have its first geothermal plant, the 35 MW Aluto Langano plant, in September 2024.
The Ethiopian Electric Power (EEP), the plant operator said the company has drilled 10 wells and tested 6 of them. The tests have confirmed a production capacity of 25 MW of power so far. EEP plans to drill four more wells.
When the plant is completed, the 35 MW phase 1 Aluto Langano plant will be the first geothermal plant in Ethiopia.
The world is endowed with huge geothermal resources. As the world marches toward net zero-emission, we shall see the application of geothermal energy as a renewable resource to generate the electricity we need will continue to expand.
This article is written by Jamin Djuang – Chief Learning Officer of LDI Training – based on information from various sources.