Geothermal Iceland Generates Its Own Electricity

Iceland is sitting on boiling hot water--it's a volcanic island with geothermal fields spread across the country. They have harnessed that heat, tapped from the hot rock layers lying just beneath the surface, and now geothermal plants provide all of the electricity, heat and hot water for the entire country.

The Hitaveita Suðurnesja power plant is the largest hot water generator plant where drilling for the geothermal fluid takes place. They drill as deeply as 2000 meters and the fluid's temperature is 243°C. The plant provides 17,000 people with hot water for central heating and electricity for 45,000. More on hot tubs after the fold.


Image from MartinBond

Iceland produced more greenhouse gas emissions per head than any where else. Because of its location, close to the Arctic Circle and its cold climate, they had to import coal and then gas for heating and transportation. As a result of their harnessing of the geothermal energy, it is now the only country in the world which obtains 100% of its electricity and heat from renewable sources with 87% of its electricity coming from hydro-power, and the remaining 13% from geothermal power.

They are now experimenting with the development of hydrogen fuel cells which can be used in cars, instead of oil. There are 3 buses, supplied by Mercedes, which are travelling very quietly around town, using this innovative battery. Depending on the speed of development of the technology, It is hoped that ultimately all the fishing boats, cars and trucks will be using it.

There are more than 600 natural hot springs around Iceland, as well as 26 high temperature geothermal fields. On a recent trip to Iceland, this TreeHugger visited some of the hot (water) spots.

The most famous is the Blue Lagoon, a strange and unusual mixture of geothermal and sea water, with a mist floating overhead. Located right by the hot water generating plant, the water is a beautiful aquamarine colour and its temperature is 37-39°C. The silica on the shores and in the rock is supposedly good for the skin. After a long session with it plastered all over our faces our skin felt like velvet, although we did not look 10 years younger.

In the name of research, we trundled off to Laugar, the largest outdoor pools, all heated naturally by the thermal water. The large main pool had a temperature of 29C and the air was 14C. Ouch. So we ran to the "hot pots" dotted around the main swimming area. The temperature is marked in each one of these small pools and it ranged from 35 to 45C. Thirty five degrees centrigrade was cool and by 45C it was way too hot to tolerate.

More on Sustainable Iceland
Fish Processing from Boat to You
Is This the End of the Line for Fishing
Iceland is the Success Story for Sustainable Fishing
Life on Board an Icelandic Fishing Boat

Tags: Carbon Neutral | Fuel Cells | Iceland | Water Crisis