Welcome to Devil's Valley: The world's oldest geothermal power plant
The world's first geothermal power plant is hidden in a quiet corner of Tuscany. Photographer Luigi Avantaggiato went there to take a look behind the scenes.
When you think of Tuscany, you probably think of rolling green hills, beautiful trees, and vineyards as far as the eye can see. But hidden in a place called 'Devil's Valley' there is a different side to Tuscany. A dangerous and volatile side that is a hotbed of geothermal activity.
This valley is the home of the world's oldest geothermal power station. Opened in 1913, the Larderello plant has been producing electricity ever since, harnessing the escaping natural gases that force themselves through cracks in the soil from the rocks below.
Pipes drilled deep into the ground at the site capture the naturally-produced steam from the rocks below, driving turbines in the power plant, thus producing electricity.
Devil's Valley, situated in southern Tuscany between Pisa and Siena, is scarred by natural and artificial cracks from which hot steam and fluids emerge at temperatures that can reach between 130°C and 160°C.
The cultivation of this renewable underground resource has made it possible to transform a geographically harsh area of Italy into one of the world's most famous renewable energy sites. In fact, the Larderello power plant was the only commercial geothermal energy plant in the world until the opening of the Wairakei power station in New Zealand in 1958.
Now, there are over 25 geothermal power plants across the world, with potentially more to be built in order to harness an abundant and sustainable resource.
Devil's Valley, Monterotondo Marittimo
Larderello power plant
Maintaining the turbines
More images from Science Focus:
- Stunning images of rare moonbows
- Inflating animals that can blow up like balloons
- Bird Photographer Of The Year finalists announced
- How farming without soil could help solve food shortages
Inside the cooling tower
Aerial view of Biancane
James Cutmore is the picture editor of BBC Science Focus Magazine, researching striking images for the magazine and on the website. He is also has a passion for taking his own photographs