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A gift from nature: Geothermal energy in Tuscany’s Valle del Diavolo

View of the Valle del Diavolo, near Monterotondo Marittimo (GR). In the center, the plumes of smoke from the "Lagone", the only remaining example of the exploitation of boric acid begun in Monterotondo Marittimo in 1812, today transformed into an extraction and injection well of the "Monterotondo Marittimo 1" geothermal power plant.

Valle del Diavolo

Luigi Avantaggiato

RESEARCHERS have studied the region around the Valle del Diavolo, or Devil’s Valley, in Tuscany, Italy, since the end of the 18th century, fascinated by the fissures spewing steam and volcanic gases that turn it into an area reminiscent of Dante’s Inferno. The first geothermal power plant in the world was completed in nearby Larderello in 1913, and locals today consider their underground resource to be a “gift of nature”, says photographer Luigi Avantaggiato, who took these photos as part of his project The Cloud Factory.

Aereal view of the "Biancane" geosite near Monterotondo Marittimo (GR), Italy.

Biancane nature park

Luigi Avantaggiato

Geothermal energy is the natural heat produced within the planet. It can escape as steam or fluid through cracks in Earth’s surface, to heat hot springs, for example – or to be exploited as a source of energy.

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Inside the natural draft cooling tower of the "Monterotondo 1" geothermal power plant near Monterodonto Marittimo (GR), Italy. The cooling tower cools the water necessary for the condensation of the endogenous vapor.

Monterotondo 1 geothermal power plant

“All the [inhabitants] I have met have given me back incredible positive feelings, as if that form of energy were a divine, almost sacred gift,” says Avantaggiato. He believes the practices in these “small, autonomous energy communities” are “very important resources for guaranteeing a sustainable and environmentally friendly future”.

The researchers from the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV) analyze the composition of the gas at the "Biancane" geosite, Monterodonto Marittimo (GR), Italy. INGV researchers have been monitoring the Biancane site for several years, mapping its thermal gradient, surface morphology and gas composition.

Volcanic gas at Biancane

Luigi Avantaggiato

The images, taken around Monterotondo Marittimo, show (above): the contrast between vegetation and white, sulphurous rocks at the Biancane nature park; the Valle del Diavolo, with the Monterotondo 1 geothermal power plant and its extraction and injection well; geochemist Rosario Avino analysing the composition of volcanic gas at Biancane; and the inside of the Monterotondo 1 power plant’s cooling tower.

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