An increasingly "green" island

An increasingly "green" island

Giancarlo Strocchia
Iceland fully meets its energy needs using clean energy (hydro- and geothermal power). The government has new projects in the pipeline for the development of this sector, so as to envisage the possibility, for Reykjavik, to export clean energy also to neighboring countries such as Great Britain through the great IceLink

There is a European island, much to the North, between Greenland and Great Britain, inhabited by just over 300,000 people, which is energetically "green," unlike the large majority of countries in the world. It is Iceland, which, until 1944, was part of Denmark and is currently the destination of flows of tourists in search of nature to the extreme. Above all, however, it is a country that has entrusted its entire energy production and consumption to renewable sources. In the land of geysers, all electricity comes from hydroelectric and geothermal power plants, and electricity is also used to produce green fuel. Natural geothermal heat is used to supply low-cost heating to most of the country, in addition to providing numerous opportunities for the local industry. Although the intensive development of these "clean" sources already covers the entire domestic energy demand, it is estimated that several hydroelectric and geothermal power plants have not yet been used, and Reykjavík is preparing to launch the implementation of new energy projects. Moreover, in all likelihood, Iceland will soon also focus on exploiting its huge potential in terms of wind power - on which the national energy company Landsvirkjun is focusing part of its activity – and marine energy: the coasts surrounding the island may in fact benefit from a number of locations considered to be "promising" for trialing the most advanced technologies in terms of wave and tidal power.

The government and the National Energy Authority expect the demand for new installed hydropower and geothermal power capacity to reach 954 MW by 2035, of which 124 MW traditional hydropower and 830 MW traditional geothermal energy.

An energy Master Plan in the name of ecology

In January 2013, the Icelandic government, in collaboration with the parliament (Alþing), developed a long-term program called the Master Plan for Hydro and Geothermal Energy Resources. This program is aimed at classifying and dividing electrical projects into three categories, namely projects that are "suitable for development, undergoing assessment, and planned," in accordance with the environmental regulations contained in the Icelandic Master Plan for Nature Protection and Energy Utilization. Based on the Master Plan and the growing demand for green energy, it seems likely that several new power plants will be built in the coming years, with an installed capacity of several hundreds of MWs. The government and the National Energy Authority expect the demand for new installed hydropower and geothermal power capacity to reach 954 MW by 2035, of which 124 MW traditional hydropower produced by the major power plants and 830 MW traditional geothermal energy. Iceland currently has 665 MW of geothermal energy and 1,986 MW of hydropower. A sharp increase in the use of geothermal energy is therefore expected.

An IceLink to connect to Europe

Using a rather resounding expression, IceLink is defined as an "Atlantic Superconnection." Icelanders, however, prefer to call it IceLink, namely, a high-voltage direct current (HVDC) underwater cable, located between Iceland and the United Kingdom, which could exponentially increase Iceland’s electricity production capacity. This large energy transport infrastructure could transfer approximately 1,459 MW of green energy to British shores, serving approximately 2 million households. In light of the results of pre-feasibility studies conducted as of 2013 by Iceland’s national energy company Landsvirkjun, at the end of October 2015, a meeting was held between the then Prime Minister of Great Britain, David Cameron, and Iceland’ Sigmunder Davio Gunnlaugsson, during which it was decided to set up a task-force whose task was to assess the project and advise on the next steps to be taken. The results of the work of the task-force were made public in July 2016, based on which both governments confirmed their interest in continuing with the energy interconnection project based on the expected social and economic benefits. From an initial estimate, however, once the project has started, it will take approximately five years to complete the feasibility studies and preparatory works, after which another five or six years will be required to produce and install the cable, implement the onshore works and other related activities. The great IceLink could, therefore, enter into operation in the second half of the next decade.