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!