Iceland’s Blue Lagoon, A Geothermal Dream

27 Apr

Iceland is home to the ‘Blue Lagoon’, a geothermal spa located in a lava field in Grindavík on the Reykjanes Peninsula, southwestern Iceland. People from all over travel to this famous landmark which is an oasis for relaxation and tranquillity. The lagoon is surrounded by an ethereal landscape of black volcanic rocks, fluffy green moss and bluish-white natural pools. Essentially the Blue Lagoon is a giant bathtub that pools six million litres of geothermal seawater from 2000 metres beneath the earth’s surface.

How does the Blue Lagoon work?

The water originates where freshwater and seawater are combined at extreme temperatures. The waters are then harnessed via deep holes at the nearby geothermal plant providing electricity and hot water to the site and nearby communities.

The lagoon is a man-made lagoon which is fed by the water output of the nearby geothermal power plant Svartsengi and is renewed every two days. Superheated water is emitted from the ground near a lava flow and used to run turbines that generate electricity.

After going through the turbines, the steam and hot water passes through a heat exchanger to provide heat for a municipal water heating system. Then the water is fed into the lagoon for recreational and medicinal users to bathe in.

It was in 1976 that the pool was formed at the site from the waste water of the geothermal power plant that had just been built there. In 1981 people started bathing in it after its purported healing powers were popularised. In 1992 the Blue Lagoon Company was established and the bathing facility was opened for the public.

What makes this location so special?

Iceland has enormous geothermal potential as the island is basically an eruption of porous basalt at the crack in Earth’s crust where the North American and Eurasian plates are pulling apart.

Historically, Icelanders used the Earth’s heat directly for washing and baking the “hot spring bread” known as hverabrauth. In 1930 water from boreholes drilled into geothermal springs in Laugardalur, just east of the capital city of Reykjavik, was piped to Austurbaer primary school about two miles away.

Iceland has two of the traits dearest to geologists in search of available geothermal power, according to power company Reykjavik Energy: enormous underground reservoirs of water that are continually renewed by levels of annual precipitation that range as high as 177 inches (450 centimetres) over Iceland’s glaciers, and shallow plumes of magma that heat the deepest reaches of these reservoirs to temperatures in excess of 750 degrees Fahrenheit (400 degrees Celsius).

What are the benefits of geothermal energy?

1)  It is a renewable source of energy.

2)  By far, it is non-polluting and environment friendly.

3)  There is no wastage or generation of by-products.

4)  Geothermal energy can be used directly. In ancient times, people used this source of energy for heating homes, cooking, etc.

5)  Maintenance cost of geothermal power plants is very less.

6)  Geothermal power plants don’t occupy too much space and thus help in protecting natural environment.

7)  Unlike solar energy, it is not dependent on the weather conditions.

The biggest disadvantage when it comes to geothermal energy is that only few sites around the world have the potential, usually located far away from towns and cities where it is needed to be consumed. The Blue Lagoon (although not a natural wonder) is a wonder nonetheless.


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