Geothermal Education Office

ITALY - Volcanoes and geothermal fields in central Italy are related to a poorly-understood microplate connected to the African-Eurasian plate boundary. In 1904, the Larderello field in Tuscany - used by Etruscans for baths, and later for the production from condensed steam of boric acid antiseptic - produced the world's first geothermal electricity. Major production at Larderello began in the 1930s, and by 1970 power capacity reached 350 MWe. Since the 80s, there has been more drilling and increased power production, bringing Italy up to a total of 592.5 MWe with 149.7 MWe reserve and 87.5 under construction. The Roman legions built 57 large Roman baths using natural hot water throughout their empire (which extended from North Africa to northern England and from Spain to Turkey). They heated these buildings using hot vapor carried through hollow tiles from the thermal springs - not the first, but undoubtedly the best-organized early use of direct geothermal heating. Modern direct use projects have expanded to 1120 GWh/yr. At Castelnuovo, greenhouses and district heating use water heated by low-pressure steam; at Monte Amiata, waste heat from a geothermal plant warms a large greenhouse complex. The fumaroles at the Campi Flegrei near Naples are said to have been so impressive they became the model for Dante's Inferno.

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October 11, 1997
© 1997 Geothermal Education Office