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A Visual Crash Course on Geothermal Energy

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geothermal energy infographic

A Visual Crash Course on Geothermal Energy

Geothermal is a lesser-known type of renewable energy that uses heat from the Earth’s molten core to produce electricity.

While this unique feature gives it key benefits over solar and wind, geothermal also suffers from high costs and geographic restrictions. Because of this, few countries have managed to produce geothermal energy at scale.

In this infographic, we’ve used a combination of diagrams and charts to give you a high level overview of this sustainable energy source.

How Geothermal Works

Geothermal energy is produced by accessing reservoirs of hot water that are found several miles below the Earth’s surface. In certain parts of the planet, this water naturally breaks through the surface, creating what’s known as a hot spring (or, in some cases, a geyser).

When accessed via a well, this pressurized water rises and rapidly expands into steam. That steam is used to spin a turbine, which then drives an electric generator.

Further along the process, excess steam is condensed back into water as it passes through a cooling tower. Finally, an injection well pumps this water back into the Earth to ensure sustainability.

Where Is Geothermal Energy Being Used?

As of 2021, global geothermal power generation amounted to 16 gigawatts (GW). However, only a handful of countries have surpassed the 1 GW milestone.

CountryInstalled Capacity (GW)
🇺🇸 U.S.3.7
🇮🇩 Indonesia2.3
🇵🇭 Philippines1.9
🇹🇷 Turkey1.7
🇳🇿 New Zealand1
🇲🇽 Mexico1
🇮🇹 Italy0.9
🇰🇪 Kenya0.9
🇮🇸 Iceland0.8
🇯🇵 Japan 0.6
🌎 Rest of World1.1

To give these numbers context, consider the following datapoints:

  • America’s 3.7 GW capacity is split across 61 geothermal plants.
  • The world’s largest solar plant, the Bhadla Solar Park, has a maximum output of 2.2 GW
  • The world’s largest hydroelectric plant, the Three Gorges Dam, can produce up to 22.5 GW

While geothermal plants produce less power, they have benefits over other types of renewables. For example, geothermal energy is not impacted by day-night cycles, weather conditions, or seasons.

The Big Picture

We now look at a second dataset, which shows the global contribution of each type of renewable energy. These figures are as of April 2022 and were sourced from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

TypeInstalled Capacity (% of total)Installed Capacity (GW)
Hydro40%1226
Solar28%858
Wind27%827
Others
(Geothermal)
5%
(0.5%)
153
(15*)
Total100%3064

*Geothermal’s total capacity in this dataset differs from the previous value of 16GW. This is due to different sources and rounding.

One reason for the slow adoption of geothermal energy is that it can only be built in regions that have suitable geological features (such as places where there is volcanic activity).

To expand on that point, consider the following data from Fitch Solutions, which shows the forecasted growth of geothermal energy capacity by region.

geothermal energy growth by region

Fitch believes that the majority of new geothermal capacity will be installed in Asia over the next decade. On the flipside, investment in North America and Western Europe (NAWE) is expected to decrease.

Over the coming years, NAWE will experience a gradual slowdown in geothermal capacity additions as we expect that investments will be crowded out by cheaper wind and solar projects.
– Fitch Solutions

The top markets for geothermal are expected to be Indonesia, the Philippines, and New Zealand, which all lie along the Pacific Ring of Fire. The Ring of Fire is a path along the Pacific Ocean where most volcanic activity occurs.

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Energy Shift

Visualized: The Growth of Clean Energy Stocks

Visual Capitalist partnered with EnergyX to analyze five major clean energy stocks and explore the factors driving this growth.

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This line chart shows the growth of clean energy stocks and hints at their cumulative five-year returns.

The Growth of Clean Energy Stocks

Over the last few years, energy investment trends have shifted from fossil fuels to renewable and sustainable energy sources. Long-term energy investors now see significant returns from clean energy stocks, especially compared to those invested in fossil fuels alone.

For this graphic, Visual Capitalist has collaborated with EnergyX to examine the rise of clean energy stocks and gain a deeper understanding of the factors driving this growth.

Sustainable Energy Stock Performance

In 2023, the IEA reported that 62% of all energy investment went toward sustainable sources. As the world embraces sustainable energy and technologies like EVs, it’s no surprise that clean energy companies provide solid returns for their investors over long periods.

Taking the top-five clean energy stocks by market cap (as of April 2024) and charting their five-year cumulative returns, it is clear that investments in clean energy are growing:

CompanyPrice: 01/04/2019Price: 12/29/20245-Year-Return %
First Solar, Inc.$46.32$172.28272%
Enphase Energy, Inc.$5.08$132.142,501%
Consolidated Edison, Inc.$76.55$90.9719%
NextEra Energy, Inc.$43.13$60.7441%
Brookfield Renewable Partners$14.78$26.2878%
promotional graphic with a button and wheel that promotes the EnergyX investment site

But how does this compare to the performance of fossil fuel stocks?

When comparing the performance of the S&P Global Oil Index and the S&P Clean Energy Index between 2019 and 2023, we see that the former returned 15%, whereas the latter returned an impressive 41%. This trend demonstrates the potential for clean energy stocks to yield significant returns on an industry level, sparking optimism and excitement for potential investors.

A Shift In Returns

With global investment trends moving away from traditional, non-sustainable sources, the companies that could shape the energy transition provide investors with alternative opportunities and avenues for growth.

One such company is EnergyX. The lithium technology company has patented a groundbreaking technology that can improve lithium extraction rates by an incredible 300%, and its stock price has grown tenfold since its first offering in 2021.

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Visualized: A Decade of Clean Energy Investment

In this graphic, Visual Capitalist has partnered with EnergyX to explore the growth of global clean energy investment.

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Visualized: A Decade of Clean Energy Investment

Global energy investment is growing every year. But recently, investments in clean energy have been significantly outpacing investments in fossil fuels.

For this graphic, we partnered with EnergyX to explore how global energy investment has changed and learn how investments in clean energy are starting to pay off for their investors.

The Rise of Sustainable Energy Investment

Propelled by various climate initiatives such as the Paris Agreement and the widespread adoption of EVs, global investment in sustainable energy surged to over $1.7 trillion in 2023, the highest ever, and the IEA projects that this growth could continue:

Energy Product20202021202220232030F
Clean Electrification$0.97T$1.05$1.21T$1.34T$1.65T
Low-Emission Fuels$0.01T$0.01$0.01T$0.02T$0.05T
Energy Efficiency$0.28T$0.35$0.39T$0.38T$0.49T
Clean Energy Total$1.26T$1.41T$1.61T$1.74T$2.19T
Natural Gas$0.26T$0.27T$0.31T$0.32T$0.35T
Oil$0.42T$0.48T$0.52T$0.55T$0.60T
Coal$0.16T$0.16T$0.18T$0.18T$0.11T
Fossil Fuel Total$0.84T$0.91T$1.01T$1.05T$1.06T
Total Energy Investment$2.10T$2.32T$2.62T$2.79T$3.25T
promotional graphic with a button and wheel that promotes the EnergyX investment site

Between 2020 and 2030, global investment in sustainable energy could increase by 74% to nearly $2.2 trillion, compared to just 26% additional investment in fossil fuels, with a forecast total of $1.06 trillion. This shows that sustainability is the future of energy investment.

Sustainable Investor Success Stories

While the growing investments in clean energy show that the world embraces sustainability, energy investors will still look for decent returns. Now, in 2024, clean energy investments are beginning to bear fruit. Here are just a few examples:

  • Between 2019 and 2023, Tesla had a cumulative return of 1,073%
  • NextEra Energy’s quarterly dividend increased by over 10% as of February 2024
  • Investors in EnergyX have 10x’ed their investments since the company’s first offering in 2021

Lithium plays a critical role in powering electric vehicles (EVs) and facilitating the transition to sustainable energy. EnergyX has patented technology that enhances lithium extraction rates by up to 300%, contributing to meeting the growing demand for lithium and fueling the EVs of the future.

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