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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

The World’s Biggest Oil Producers in 2023

Just three countries accounted for 40% of global oil production last year.

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Donut chart showing the biggest oil producers by country in 2023.

The World’s Biggest Oil Producers in 2023

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Despite efforts to decarbonize the global economy, oil still remains one of the world’s most important resources. It’s also produced by a fairly limited group of countries, which can be a source of economic and political leverage.

This graphic illustrates global crude oil production in 2023, measured in million barrels per day, sourced from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Three Countries Account for 40% of Global Oil Production

In 2023, the United States, Russia, and Saudi Arabia collectively contributed 32.7 million barrels per day to global oil production.

Oil Production 2023Million barrels per day
🇺🇸 U.S.12.9
🇷🇺 Russia10.1
🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia9.7
🇨🇦 Canada4.6
🇮🇶 Iraq4.3
🇨🇳 China4.2
🇮🇷 Iran3.6
🇧🇷 Brazil3.4
🇦🇪 UAE3.4
🇰🇼 Kuwait2.7
🌍 Other22.8

These three nations have consistently dominated oil production since 1971. The leading position, however, has alternated among them over the past five decades.

In contrast, the combined production of the next three largest producers—Canada, Iraq, and China—reached 13.1 million barrels per day in 2023, just surpassing the production of the United States alone.

In the near term, no country is likely to surpass the record production achieved by the U.S. in 2023, as no other producer has ever reached a daily capacity of 13.0 million barrels. Recently, Saudi Arabia’s state-owned Saudi Aramco scrapped plans to increase production capacity to 13.0 million barrels per day by 2027.

In 2024, analysts forecast that the U.S. will maintain its position as the top oil producer. In fact, according to Macquarie Group, U.S. oil production is expected to achieve a record pace of about 14 million barrels per day by the end of the year.

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Energy Shift

How Much Does the U.S. Depend on Russian Uranium?

Despite a new uranium ban being discussed in Congress, the U.S. is still heavily dependent on Russian uranium.

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Voronoi graphic visualizing U.S. reliance on Russian uranium

How Much Does the U.S. Depend on Russian Uranium?

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a ban on imports of Russian uranium. The bill must pass the Senate before becoming law.

In this graphic, we visualize how much the U.S. relies on Russian uranium, based on data from the United States Energy Information Administration (EIA).

U.S. Suppliers of Enriched Uranium

After Russia invaded Ukraine, the U.S. imposed sanctions on Russian-produced oil and gas—yet Russian-enriched uranium is still being imported.

Currently, Russia is the largest foreign supplier of nuclear power fuel to the United States. In 2022, Russia supplied almost a quarter of the enriched uranium used to fuel America’s fleet of more than 90 commercial reactors.

Country of enrichment service SWU*%
🇺🇸 United States3,87627.34%
🇷🇺 Russia3,40924.04%
🇩🇪 Germany1,76312.40%
🇬🇧 United Kingdom1,59311.23%
🇳🇱 Netherlands1,3039.20%
Other2,23215.79%
Total14,176100%

SWU stands for “Separative Work Unit” in the uranium industry. It is a measure of the amount of work required to separate isotopes of uranium during the enrichment process. Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

Most of the remaining uranium is imported from European countries, while another portion is produced by a British-Dutch-German consortium operating in the United States called Urenco.

Similarly, nearly a dozen countries around the world depend on Russia for more than half of their enriched uranium—and many of them are NATO-allied members and allies of Ukraine.

In 2023 alone, the U.S. nuclear industry paid over $800 million to Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy corporation, Rosatom, and its fuel subsidiaries.

It is important to note that 19% of electricity in the U.S. is powered by nuclear plants.

The dependency on Russian fuels dates back to the 1990s when the United States turned away from its own enrichment capabilities in favor of using down-blended stocks of Soviet-era weapons-grade uranium.

As part of the new uranium-ban bill, the Biden administration plans to allocate $2.2 billion for the expansion of uranium enrichment facilities in the United States.

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