Geothermal energy refers to natural heat energy within the earth. We can recover this and use it to heat buildings or generate electricity. Most geothermal resources are deep underground and not visible from the surface, but sometimes they can be seen above ground in the form of geysers, hot springs and volcanoes.

Power plants harness geothermal energy by tapping into underground reservoirs of hot water and steam that are created when magma heats ground water trapped in the earth’s crust.  Wells pump this hot water and steam to the surface and use it to rotate a turbine. This activates a generator and produces electricity. The remaining hot water and steam are returned to the reservoir, helping keep it a sustainable resource.

What are the benefits of geothermal energy?

Geothermal power plants can produce electricity consistently, regardless of the weather or time of day.  Because geothermal power plants do not burn fuel, they create little to no emissions or waste, too.

Where are geothermal resources found?

The majority of geothermal power plants in the United States are located in the West where geothermal reservoirs tend to be closest to the earth’s surface. Geothermal wells typically extend one or two miles deep to reach water and steam reaching temperatures above 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

View a map of geothermal resources in the United States from the National Renewable Energy Laboratories.

Where can I find more resources on geothermal energy?