Technology

Jan 31, 2016

From the Center of the Earth

Iceland is a pioneer in the use of geothermal energy for household heating. Generating electricity with geothermal energy has increased significantly in recent years. Geothermal power facilities currently generate 29% of the country's total electricity production.

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During the course of the 20th century, Iceland went from being one of Europe's poorest countries, dependent upon peat and imported coal for its energy, to being a country with high living standards where practically all stationary energy is derived from renewable resources. Recently, roughly 85% of primary energy use in Iceland came from indigenous renewable resources. Thereof 66% was from geothermal.

Iceland is well known to be a world leader in the use of geothermal district heating. After World War II, the National Energy Authority carried out research and development, which has led to the use of geothermal resources for heating of households. Today, about 9 in 10 households are heated with geothermal energy.

As a result of the rapid expansion in Iceland's energy intensive industry, the demand for electricity has increased considerably. The installed generation capacity of geothermal power plants totaled 665 MWe in 2013 and the production was 5.245 GWh, or 29% of the country's total electricity production.

Research

The Iceland Deep Drilling Project (IDDP) is a long term study of high-temperature hydrothermal systems in Iceland. The IDDP is a collaborative effort by a consortium of Icelandic power companies and the Icelandic government, formed to determine if utilizing supercritical geothermal fluids would improve the economics of power productions from geothermal fields.

Over the next several years the IDDP expects to drill and test a series of boreholes that will penetrate supercritical zones believed to be present beneath three currently exploited geothermal fields in Iceland. This will require drilling to a depth of about 5 km in order to reach hydrothermal fluids at temperatures ranging from 450°C to about 600°C.

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