'Geothermal Energy' Tag Archive

Nov 14 2011
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It Ain’t Easy Being Green


Is Geothermal Energy Green? Seems Quite Gray to Me -- Photo by Alísa Kalyanova Words by Paul Fontaine. Photo by Alísa Kalyanova. Originally published in The Reykjavík Grapevine.

One of Iceland’s proudest assets is its energy grid. Geothermal energy, by 2010 figures, accounts for just over 26% of the country’s electricity, as well as 86% of its heating and hot water. Iceland’s geothermal energy technology has been shared with countries around the world, and has attracted the interests of foreign investors.

However, as comparatively cleaner for the environment geothermal power is not without its problems. One of these is the main elephant in the room: geothermal energy is not a renewable energy source. Boreholes that tap into the massive steam vents below the surface do not last forever. When Ross Beaty, CEO of Magma Energy (now a part of Alterra Power Corp.) made the specious claim that geothermal energy lasts for centuries, scientists such as Stefán Arnórsson and Sigmundur Einarsson were quick to point out that geothermal power in the Reykjanes area — where Magma sought to drill — only had enough power to last about 60 years at best. Although this point was seldom, if ever, brought up in any previous discussion about geothermal power in Iceland, more recent events have shown that geothermal energy is not just non-renewable; it can even pollute. Read More

Oct 18 2011
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No Smelter in Húsavík! – Energy Crisis Force Alcoa to Withdraw


Tómas Már Sigurðsson, the director of Alcoa in Iceland After a six years process Alcoa in Iceland has withdrawn its plans to build a 250 thousand ton aluminium smelter in Bakki, near Húsavík in the North of Iceland. It is now clear, according to the company, that the energy needed to run the proposed smelter will not be provided and, even if it could be provided, the company finds the price too high. Tómas Már Sigurðsson, the director of Alcoa in Iceland, announced this yesterday on a meeting in Húsavík, marking a milestone in the struggle against the aluminium industry’s further development in Iceland.

As from 2005 Alcoa, along with national energy company Landsvirkjun, Húsavík’s authorities and – to begin with – the Icelandic authorities, has been working on the project, which would have required at least 400 MW of energy, produced by harnessing geothermal areas and glacial rivers in the North. In 2008 a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Landsvirkjun and Alcoa expired, and a year later the same happened concerning a MOU between the aluminium producer and the Icelandic government, the latter not willing to renew it.

Since then Landsvirkjun has signed a few other MOUs, regarding geothermal energy commerce, with possible buyers such as data centres and silicon factories, in some ways meeting with a popular demand for less destructive and more “green” use of the geothermal energy. Regardless of what one finds about the alleged “greenness” of such enterprises this development has inevitably raised the question if Landsvirkjun would be able to feed both Alcoa’s planned smelter and at the same time these smaller, less energy intensive factories. Read More

Jun 29 2011
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The Icelandic Geothermal Cluster: Banks, Universities, Ministries, Energy Companies and Aluminium Producers Join Forces


Suits and Ties: Banks, Energy and Aluminium Companies - From the Establishment Meetings Dozens of Icelandic companies and institutions, all directly connected to the heavy industrialization of Iceland, have established a co-operating forum concerning the development of the so-called “Icelandic geothermal cluster”. The forum, which was formally established yesterday, June 28th, is originally a conception by Dr. Michael Porter, professor at Harvard Business School and known as “a leading authority on company strategy and the competitiveness of nations and regions.” Interviewed by a news-report TV show Kastljós, Porter, who was in Iceland to take part in the forum’s formal establishment, said that Icelanders are “too cautious” when it comes to “using the opportunities that consist in geothermal energy and the nation’s expertise on the issue.” Contrary to Porter, environmentalists and Iceland’s National Energy Authority fear the overexploitation of geothermal resources. Read More

Jun 24 2011
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Environmentalists Excluded from Master Plan on the Future of Nature Conservation


Kerlingarfjöll At the beginning of July the results of a framework programme, concerning the exploitation and protection of Iceland’s natural resources, will be presented publicly. The timing of the presentation has much more to do with demands from the labour market agents, rather than the government’s will to try to reach a settlement about the result, according to the Icelandic Nature Conservation Association (INCA, or NSÍ in Icelandic), which is highly critical of many aspects of the making of the framework programme.

One of the association’s primary criticisms is directed towards the fact that a particular committee, nominated to sort the areas in question into three different categories: protection, hold and utilization – did not include a single representative from environmentalist organizations. Whereas representatives from the energy and tourism industries, as well as the ministries of environment and industry, had seats on the committee. The viewpoint of nature conservation has thus no spokesperson in the working progress, states a press release from INCA. Read More

Jun 10 2011
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Increased Sulphur Pollution in Reykjavík Due to Geothermal Expansion in Hellisheiði


sulphur-pollution-from-hengill The Public Health Authority of Reykjavík is highly critical of the recently published preliminary Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for a 45 MW construction of geothermal power plants at Gráuhnjúkar on Hellisheiði. The reason is that the EIA, carried out by engineering firm Mannvit, hardly mentions the possible effects of the project’s sulphur pollution on the human population living in the capital area of Reykjavík. “They mention the impacts of increased amount of hydrogen sulphide at the power plant area, but hardly mention the capital area where a high proportion of the population lives” said Árný Sigurðardóttir from the Public Health Authority in an interview with newspaper Fréttablaðið. The power plant in Hellisheiði is only about 30 km away from Reykjavík.

Since October 2006 Orkuveita Reykjavíkur (Reykjavík Energy) has produced geothermal energy on Hellisheiði, predominantly for the Norðurál/Century aluminium smelter in Grundartangi, Hvalfjörður. Since then increased sulphur pollution in the power plant’s surrounding area, as well as in the area around Reykjavík, has regularly become a topic of discussion and Sigurðardóttir says that the pollution’s impacts are systematically underestimated. Instead of using recent researches into the issue, Mannvit bases the EIA on prediction-models, but new studies by the University of Reykjavík indicate that the increased use of medicine for asthma and heart disease angina pectoris is directly linked to increased sulphur pollution. Read More

Apr 04 2011
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Ten Billionaires Seeking to Buy Icelandic Citizenship to Ease their Access to Cheap Energy


Geothermal Energy - photo by Craig Thomas Recently it was revealed that ten billionaires from Canada and the US are seeking Icelandic citizenship to ease their access to invest in geothermal and hydro energy in Iceland. These two news articles were published on the Reykjavík Grapevine website (1 and 2).

Wealthy Individuals Seeking To Buy Icelandic Citizenship

Ten people promising to invest millions in Iceland’s renewable energy field have applied for citizenship directly with parliament. The reaction from within parliament has been one of both bewilderment and suspicion.

The ten individuals are apparently from outside the Schengen area. By Icelandic law, this would normally mean they would need to live here, work, not leave the country for more than six months at a time and remain a resident of Iceland for seven years before they could even qualify for citizenship. However, Iceland has made exceptions in the past for those applying directly to parliament – most notably with certain athletes and chess player Bobby Fischer. Read More

Mar 06 2011

National Energy Authority Fears Overexploitation of Geothermal Areas in Reykjanes


Reykjanes Geothermal Plant H.S. Orka, an Icelandic energy company recently bought by Canadian firm Magma Energy, has to widen its planned drilling area for the planned enlargement of Reykjanes geothermal power plant and proof that enough energy can be found on a larger area then already arranged for. These are conditions required from the National Energy Authority (NEA), which fears overexploitation of geothermal areas on the Reykjanes peninsula, in the south-west corner of Iceland. An aluminium smelter in Helguvík, which has been in the making for the last few years, is dependent on the enlargement. Read More

Mar 05 2011
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Alcoa: Where Will the New Dams be Built?


By Jaap Krater Alcoabanner.jpg

Last spring ALCOA released the first draft of the joint environmental impact assessment for the proposed Bakki smelter and power plants at Krafla and Theistareykir. Recently Iceland’s National Planning Agency commented on the draft assessment in a damning commentary.

The agency stated that the environmental impacts of the project are high and cannot be mitigated. 17,000 ha of untouched wilderness will be affected. Greenhouse gas emissions of the project would constitute 14% of Iceland’s total. There is a great deal of uncertainty on the full impact of the planned power plants and particularly on how much geothermal energy can be sustainably produced. Finally, the assessed energy projects will not be able to fully power the smelter, with 140 MW of capacity missing.

This confirms three key points of critique on the smelter that we have been voicing for several years now. Read More

Feb 06 2011
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Alcoa Still Wants to Build Smelter in Bakki – Questions Concerning Energy Unanswered


bakki Alcoa still plans to build an aluminium smelter in Bakki by Húsavík, north-Iceland, according to the newspaper Fréttablaðið. This contradicts recent news, published in the business newspaper Viðskiptablaðið, saying that Alcoa was about to withdraw the idea due to the government’s alleged unwillingness to go ahead with it. Questions about energy to run the smelter are still unanswered but recent comments from the National Planning Agency, concerning the project’s joint Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), state that enough geothermal energy can not be produced for the smelter; and certainly not in a sustainable way. Read More

Jan 31 2011
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Century Aluminum Energy Questions


helguvik-sept-2010 Century Aluminum (Nordural) intends to build an aluminium smelter at Helguvík for producing 250.000 tpy, using 435 MW of electricity. At one point the intended size grew to 600.000 tpy and 625 MW of electricity but those plans have been cancelled. The first phase of the smelter was expected to start in 2010 and the 250.000 ton should be reached in 2013. Now there are already some big structures at the smelter site but no energy has been produced and moreover, there is no energy available.

Sigmundur Einarsson, a geologist at the Icelandic Institute of Natural History, has written some articles on this matter (in Icelandic). He has tried, amongst a number of other environmental scientists,  to warn the Icelandic government about a new kind of collapse, an energy collapse due to following far too optimistic speculation of irresponsible people. Read More