Geothermal resources were first used to generate electricity in Larderello, Italy in 1911. Continuing exploration has led to the discovery and development of additional geothermal resources, although, many of these geothermal areas lack the high quality required to be cost competitive. Much of the research and development focuses on developing generators that can operate economically with lower quality resources.
The geothermal resources currently in use are mostly lacking in both the quantity and quality needed to provide enough energy for sizable areas to achieve Renewable Portfolio Standards of 100%. It is doubtful this shortfall will be overcome unless we pursue the development and deployment of technologies to harness supercritical geothermal resources. Supercritical geothermal resources produce up to ten times as much energy per well and have a temperature high enough to power operations at 50% higher efficiency than operations of standard facilities.
Supercritical geothermal resources only exist in a few locations on land, including Iceland and California. However, such resources are also found in the ocean rift zone, which stretches for 65,000 kilometers around the world, and can be developed in large quantities. These ocean floor resources have the potential to generate abundant low cost electricity worldwide.