Iceland’s Geothermal Success
Article by David Brooks
Iceland seems to be hitting the world-stage for their experience in the development of geothermal power and heating. I for one think they are on to something good.
If you asked some random people what they know about Iceland, most would say the same thing – I heard somewhere that Iceland was name that to keep people away and that Greenland was named to draw people their instead. Or, a derivation on that theme, is it true that Iceland is green and Greenland is really mostly ice? I have heard this countless times when I tell people I lived there. I am not criticizing; Iceland is not a familiar country to most people. Occasionally, though, people will know a little bit about the country and that is usually something related to geothermal.
I lived in Iceland for two years and it was a time that left quite an impression on me. Iceland is not an easy nation to characterize or label. You hear the phrase, fire & ice quite a bit which symbolizes much more than just Iceland’s geology. This phrase is a bit of an oxymoron but seems to sum up much of Iceland including its culture, economy and hardy population.
Iceland has only 300,000 people and an economy that is so small it makes you wonder how it manages on its own, but it does and quite well. One of the reason it does so well is because of it specific geographic location. The country straddles the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, right on the spreading center, or divergent boundary, between two tectonic plates, the North American and Eurasian Plates. All this makes Iceland a hot bed – no pun intended – of volcanic activity and also rich in geothermal reservoirs.
Iceland has been utilizing this geothermal power for decades and they use it to heat about 90% of all homes and produce roughly one quarter of all their electrical needs. Most of their remaining electricity needs come from hydroelectric. So, you might guess that Iceland has a clean environment and you would be right.
Iceland has also helped to transform their economy with this abundant and cheap power by attracting power intensive industries such as primary aluminum smelters. This change is controversial though as many Icelanders believe that their government is selling out one of the last pristine countries in the world. I am not taking sides, though I can understand both arguments. One the one hand, Iceland has few other natural resources and with dwindling fish stocks needs to fine away to attract foreign investment. They are doing this by commoditizing cheap, renewable electricity. On the other hand, there is certainly a value and strong argument to preserving pristine wilderness.
Why I think Iceland is going to be much better known in the coming years is by exporting their nearly unparalleled experience in geothermal development to countries all over the world. I see a future where Icelandic engineers are helping to develop geothermal reservoirs utilizing their innovations and expertise to help solve our growing energy crisis. I am a strong believer in green energy and it seems obvious that that is where we are headed whether we like it or not. So, maybe it is time to get to know this tiny island nation and make friends with all that fire and ice.
Iceland is dedicated to renewable energy development and is one of the few countries with plans to be 100% non-fossil fuel in the near future. They’ll do this with geothermal power plants and hydroelectric power plants.
About the Author
David Brooks is a customer service specialist at Blindsgalore.com, a internet retailer of window treatments, blinds, shutters and shades.