Jan 13 2009

Eight Power Plants Needed for Helguvík Smelter

The directors of Reykjavík Energy (OR) and Hitaveita Suðurnesja (HS) have both said that the companies are not able to supply all the necessary energy that Century Aluminium needs fo it’s planned aluminium smelter in Helguvík, in the next 7 years, even though 6 new power plants would be built. At least 200 MW would be needed, which is the amount of energy that could be produced by building power plants in Bitra (geothermal field) and in Urriðafoss waterfall (in Þjórsá river).

Össur Skarphéðinsson, minister of industry has on behalf of the Icelandic government, given Norðurál (Century Aluminium) the permission to build up to 360 thousand ton aluminium smelter in Helguvík, which would produce double the amount Rio Tinto Alcan’s smelter in Hafnarfjörður produces. But where does all the necessary energy – 625 MW – come from?

HS plans to build geothermal power plants in three different places; on Reykjanes, Krýsuvík and in Eldvörp (all on the Reykjanes penensula). That might give 250 MW. OR plans to build three new plants as well; on Hellisheiði, Hverahlíð and by Gráuhnjúkar. That could make 175 MW. These six power plants are still not enough, 200 MW will still be needed.

It is likely that OR will look in to building a plant in Bitra, but in 2008 Bitra was saved by an active grassroots campaign. Still, it would not be enough. Landsvirkjun’s three planed dams in Þjórsá river could make the change, but Skarphéðinsson has already said that the energy from Þjórsá will not go to the Helguvík smelter. If the energy from OR and HS will not be enough, Century will have to live with a smaller smelter, he says.

Geothermal energy is not renewable

Ómar Ragnarsson, a well known Icelandic environmentalist has raised his concerns about this. He says that if these plans go through, the whole Reykjanes geothermal fields will completely dry up. And that Icelanders have to stop lying to themselves that geothermal energy is renwable energy.

Ragnarsson says that this area would not even be able to sustain if the plants would produce only 200 MW – still HS and OR plan to produce 625 MW! Some scientists even worry that the energy on Reykjanes will not be enough to run the smelter for it’s contract time.