Geothermal Energy in Iceland

by Laura Mitic (Carmanah) for The Jellyfish Project

I find myself in Iceland, the land of Viking descendants, fascinating history, breathtaking natural wonders and, in recent years, incredible research into an excellent alternative in energy production... Geothermal energy!

99% of Iceland's energy comes from renewable resources, the biggest portion of that being from hydro power harnessed in gigantic dams found mostly in Northern Iceland. However, 30% of Iceland's energy (and this number is sure to grow) is being gathered by geothermal power plants.  Nearly all houses in Iceland are heated with geothermal water. 

Iceland is located directly over the North American and Eurasian plates that are pulling apart from each other. This splitting makes Iceland one of the most geologically active places on earth. Shallow plumes of magma heat gigantic underwater water reservoirs to over 400 degrees C.  Geothermal power plants harness the heat and energy created by this. 

This change to renewable energy has happened in recent years. In fact, in the mid 20th century 80% of Iceland's energy needs were met from coal and oil that was imported by European ships.  In old photos, you can see the capital city, Reykjavík, with clouds of smog looming over it. 

Now, the city is known as being the cleanest capital in the world and Iceland has become the leading exporter of geothermal expertise to the rest of the globe. 

The country also benefits greatly from its geothermal potential in other ways.  Travelers, like me, flock to places like the Blue Lagoon, an amazing hot pool heated by a stream of hot water from a nearby geothermal power plant, Nesjavellir. The stream clogs porous rocks and has created a beautiful big hot lagoon that is known for its blue colour as well as for having healing qualities. 

Hot springs are all over the island and tours of geothermal power plants are available for people wanting to know more about this awesome alternative for clean energy. 

Of course, there is more to know and geothermal power plants do still emit small levels of CO2 along with the steam that pours from them.  But this is a remarkable step in the right direction of alternatives to energy created by coal and oil. 

I've now experienced hard boiling an egg in a bubbling geothermal spring, and I've tasted the delicious Hverabraud bread (translates to "hot spring bread"), that is left to bake beneath the hot ground for 24 hours.  I'm feeling inspired by Iceland's  successful efforts to no longer depend on fossil fuels for energy production.  We need to follow in Iceland's footsteps and stop seeing fossil fuels as the only way to power our communities. There are so many ways that multiple types of renewable energy can give us exactly what we need, without filling our atmosphere with toxic fumes. 

Check out this article to learn so much more on Iceland's geothermal energy production!

Should Canada Go Geothermal?

Taken from the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions Website
Published Oct 16, 2014

British Columbia has no geothermal power generation, but according to new research released by Canada’s geothermal energy sector, the province could generate 5,500 megawatts of power from geothermal sources — equivalent to about five times the generating capacity of the potential Site C hydroelectric dam, at prices of 10 cents per kilowatt hour or less. The provincial government is preparing to make a decision on whether to go ahead with Site C sometime in November. A Joint Review Panel that examined BC Hydro’s application for Site C noted that there were potential alternatives that hadn’t been fully explored, including geothermal. Utility-scale geothermal energy typically involves drilling up to thousands of metres into the earth to tap hot spots, such as areas with young or active volcanoes, to draw heat to the surface to generate steam to drive power turbines. Among the advantages of geothermal power is that it involves low running costs, it is reliable, and it does not create pollution.

As countries around the world attempt to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels, geothermal energy is a potential source of clean power generation in tectonically active areas such as Iceland or the Pacific Ring of Fire. Japan, for example, currently has 17 geothermal power stations and has plans to develop more. France also has plans to increase its use of geothermal energy, despite being a more geologically stable country than either Iceland or Japan. Currently, Paris has the world’s second-largest concentration of geothermal wells, after Iceland, and is developing a 13-kilometre geothermal network that will ultimately bring heat to 180,000 Parisian homes. There are no such initiatives underway in Canada, despite high geothermal resources, especially in BC and the Yukon. Ironically, Canadian energy companies run geothermal power plants around the world but not here, largely because abundant hydropower and fossil fuel energy makes geothermal power economically uncompetitive in most of the country. But the fact remains: geothermal resources in British Columbia are significant and offer an opportunity for the province to reinforce its commitment developing low-carbon energy resources. Those will become increasingly economically attractive when (not if) the price on carbon emissions escalates in the future. 

World Lost Half Its Wildlife In 40 Years

Populations of vertebrate species—including mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles—fell by a staggering average of 52% between 1970 and 2010, and the trend isn't slowing down. The population drop was 39% among both terrestrial wildlife and marine wildlife, and 76% among freshwater species, according to the report released in partnership with the Zoological Society of London. Researchers earlier estimated that around 30% of the world's wildlife had been lost over the 40-year period.

David Nussbaum, chief executive of the WWF in the UK said: "The scale of destruction highlighted in this report should be a wake-up call to us all.

"We all, politicians, businesses and people, have an interest, and a responsibility, to act to ensure we protect what we all value: a healthy future for both people and nature."

Professor Jonathan Baillie, director of conservation programmes at ZSL, said people should think about everything they do, from recycling to putting pressure on political and industry leaders, supporting sustainable businesses and getting their children outside to reconnect with nature.

“Tracking the Energy Revolution” Builds On Wave of Hope

Taken From Clean Energy Canada
Published Sept 21, 2014

Those feeling energized and inspired by yesterday’s 310,000-strong People’s Climate March have another reason to feel optimistic about solutions to the global climate crisis today.

That’s because this morning—on the eve of the United Nations Climate Summit—we released a major new graphical report (above) that spotlights how leading economies and companies are working to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels and embrace clean energy.

It’s called Tracking the Energy Revolution, and its 18 pages of maps, charts, and graphics tell the story of how plunging equipment costs, strong investor interest, and government and business leadership are driving a global shift to renewable energy sources such as wind, sun, and water.

In researching the report, we found nations such as China and the United States and companies such as IKEA and Apple are working to reduce their dependence on the fossil fuels that are disrupting our climate.

That’s great news because—as we will likely hear at tomorrow’s UN Climate Summit—clean energy tops the list of solutions we need to solve this crisis.

An United Nations report released in April and supported by almost 200 world governments stated that clean energy production will have to at least triple today’s levels and dominate world energy supplies by 2050 in order to avoid catastrophic climate disruption.

Tracking the Energy Revolution paints a vivid picture of the efforts underway to that end:

  • 144 countries now have renewable-energy targets
  • Last year, investors directed $207 billion into clean energy projects worldwide
  • 60 percent of Fortune 100 firms have goals for boosting renewable energy use
  • Last year was the first time China invested more money in new clean-energy capacity than it did in new coal plants.
  • Worldwide, 6.5 million people now work in the renewable energy industry.

If you’d like to help get the word out on some of the key findings of today’s report, please save and share one of the graphics embedded below. Please be sure to mention our twitter handle, @cleanenergycan, or cite our Facebook page, Clean Energy Canada. Thanks!