Greetings from Iceland!
Iceland is one of the cleanest energy consumers in the world, deriving almost 100% of its energy from geothermal and hydroelectric sources.
Geothermal Energy – otherwise known as thermal energy that is stored in the Earth. The Earth’s geothermal energy could hypothetically supply humankind’s energy needs, but only a small amount can be profitability exploited. So – why does Iceland have such abundance?
…Location, location, location. Iceland resides on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a divergent tectonic plate boundary. The North American and Eurasian plates are continuously moving apart. This produces volcanic rift zones and allows molten rock to rise and erupt as lava or ash. The same ecological activity that causes volcanoes (over 200 located in Iceland!) provides a massive supply of geothermal energy.
Iceland is comprised of hundreds of hot springs and reservoirs, where hot water is pumped through a heat exchanger. The heat exchanger transfers heat from the water into a building’s heating system and the water is then relocated back into the reservoir to be reheated and reused. Alternatively, hot water and steam are channeled through underground wells and used to generate electricity in a geothermal power plant. Here in Iceland, geothermal energy is used to heat everything from swimming pools to houses. Over 90% of Iceland’s houses are heated with geothermal energy – and I have yet to see a chimney since I arrived a week ago.
Hydroelectric power: a renewable source of energy that uses the force of moving water to generate power. A turbine (similar to a propeller) converts the energy of flowing water into mechanical energy. Subsequently, a hydroelectric generator converts this mechanical energy into electricity. Iceland’s abundant waterfalls and massive glaciers strongly favor hydroelectric power. The production of hydropower is directly related to Iceland’s industrial development and this energy is largely used for power intensive industries, such as aluminum smelting. In the case of aluminum, using hydropower instead of coal has cut CO2 emissions about 90% per ton of production.
Iceland not only has an advantageous geographic landscape for energy efficiency, but the President of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, is a huge advocate. At the recent SE4ALL (Sustainable Energy For All) Conference, he encouraged the rest of the world to change their way of thinking on energy matters. “Think smaller. There are already technologies available in the fields of geothermal, solar, and wind energy, which work on smaller scales than are currently widespread use. These could allow individual homes, villages, towns, or regions to become energy independent. Every home could one day become its own power station.”