Iceland and geothermal: not only geysers from the depth of the Earth

Sep 19, 2016 | written by:

Today we point the compass towards the North to talk about future and energy.

While the majority of European States is committed to define the best strategy for energy supply, Iceland relies on geothermal energy and reaps huge benefits.

Using geothermal energy means using the heat trapped in the deeper layers of the earth's crust, a renewable energy source. In Iceland the temperature, which in general gets higher ideally progressing in the direction of the center of the Earth, increases more sharply than elsewhere due to the volcanic origin of the country: this means that in a few hundred meters deep under the soil the temperature rises: this is called, in technical terms, high thermal gradients.

To draw energy from these geological sources of heat is necessary to drill the subsoil until reaching the reserves of pressurized ground water: the liquid can reach 300°C and spontaneously goes back to the surface, becoming partly steam which feeds the turbines of the geothermic plants. 

Over 90% of homes in Iceland is heated with energy from these plants; in Reykjavik the percentage reaches 100%. A recently published study done by Samorka, the Federation of Energy and Utility Companies of Iceland, shows that the inhabitants of Reykjavik spend nearly one fifth of the comparable cost for heating in Nordic countries’s capitals. This advantage comes from the presence of the geothermal plant in Hellisheiði: 26 km away from the capital, and fully operational from 2010, this plant looks deceptively like a modern art gallery and guarantees the totality of electricity and hot water to the town population.

Guided tours and installations for the dissemination: citizens and tourists enjoy the industrial plant as a public space and become more aware of the economic and environmental benefits due to the geothermal plant. A signal that helps to be confident about the intentions of Icelanders that their capital is carbon neutral by 2040.

The basic ingredients of a geothermal plant with excellent yields are very warm waters deep and cold air in the atmosphere : these are natural ecosystem Icelandic conditions. Call it "natural luck", but put a big effort in optimizing the benefits in terms of communication, well, call it foresight.

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