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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.

The Incredible History of Geothermal Energy

9 Sep

Geothermal energy is energy generated by heat stored beneath the Earth’s surface and is often referred to as ‘Geothermal Power’. At present, geothermal energy provides less than 10% of the world’s energy, which is a shame considering it’s abundance and that it is clean and safe for the surrounding environment. Although, it is a very important energy source in volcanically active places such as New Zealand and Iceland.

Interestingly enough we humans have been utilising geothermal energy in places like North America for more than 10,000 years. Archaeological evidence establishes that the beginning of man’s application of geothermal energy was by the Paleo-American Indians who used thermal springs for cooking. The first people to live in North America came from Asia at least 14,000 years ago. They arrived near the end of the Pleistocene epoch, which is also known as the Ice Age which as you can imagine, geothermal energy would be very useful. Archaeologists believe the first Americans crossed into North America when it was connected to Asia by land. The natural geothermal energy springs performed as a lake of geothermal energy for heat and purifying, using their minerals as a source of therapeutic healing. Native Americans have a history with every major thermal spring in the USA.

The very first geothermal energy facility was built in Italy. The first documented attempt was the use of a natural geyser in the earth’s core to generate electricity with the liquid drawn out. At first, scientists wanted to use volcanic material because they had seen the destruction it caused during eruption. After attempts by several individuals to heat their own homes with heat from earth materials, Prince Piero Ginori Conti built a prototype generator that successfully provided enough wattage to light 4 separate light bulbs. This became the brain child project that began the serious exploration of geothermal energy production as we know it today.

One of the main advantages of using geothermal energy is the lack of pollution. Being a renewable source of energy, geothermal energy has helped in reducing global warming and pollution. Moreover, geothermal systems do not create any pollution as it releases some gases from deep within the earth which are not very harmful to the environment. Also, local governments in various countries are investing hugely in the creation of geothermal energy. This is brilliant as it’s a major player when it comes to the job market.

Although there is a huge problem with geothermal energy as it’s only suitable for regions which have hot rocks below the earth and can produce steam over a long period of time. For this, intensive research is required which is done by the companies before setting up the plant and is very costly. Some of these regions are near hilly areas or high up in mountains.

Technologies are being created that will allow us to examine areas more than ten miles beneath the Earth’s surface for pursuing geothermal energy, which is pretty marvellous if you ask us.


Hawaii wants to embrace Geothermal Energy!

18 Jul

Here at Eco People we love the idea of Geothermal Energy, a thermal energy generated and stored in the Earth. We love it so much because it seems so natural. From hot springs, geothermal energy has been used for bathing since Paleolithic times and for space heating since ancient Roman times, but it is now better known for electricity generation. Geothermal power is cost effective, reliable, sustainable, and environmentally friendly.

Hawaii could see a geothermal energised future as they are currently facing tough times when it comes to their energy. Almost all their energy is imported and with the ever impending reality of climate change, prices for importing such energy would be increased drastically.

The governor of Hawaii, Neil Abercrombie (I don’t think there’s a link) believes the answer lies beneath the earth and is already making plans to embrace the power of geothermal energy!

“I realise that there’s been discussion and interest and varying views, but with respect to the utilisation [of geothermal], I hope that conversation can come to a quick conclusion,” Abercrombie told the Associated Press as he prepared to sign Senate Bill 2953.

The bill above would safeguard 100% of royalties from the use of geothermal resources on Hawaiian Home Lands would be paid directly to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.

The governor of Hawaii signed the bills in hopes it would boost the search of geothermal energy, as he believes Hawaii has an “incredible” amount. He said;

“If there is anything on Earth, or in Earth, that says to us as a species, as stewards of this planet, that here is a resource for your utilisation and for your proper regard, and to be a steward of, it’s geothermal,” he added. “And the Big Island could not be better situated for it.”

Hawaii is situated in the centre of the ‘Ring of fire’ making it a geothermal dream. Read more about the ring of fire here

Hawaii Electric Light Co. is beginning work on a geothermal power project that would generate up to 50 megawatts on Hawaii Island. Presently, the 38 MW Puna Geothermal Venture plant near Pohoiki is the only source of geothermal power in the state.

That is obviously not enough, given the availability of the resource in Hawaii, Abercrombie said.

“This is a resource for the 21st Century in terms of alternative and renewable energy that probably is inexhaustible, and probably bodes as well as anything on the face of the earth to move us away from oil dependency and carbon-based dependency,”

What’s your take on Geothermal Energy? Do you think more should be done to harness this source of energy or do you think we should leave it alone?


Denmark comes home with the bacon!

23 May

Denmark…the creators of Pandora (one of the world’s biggest jewellery brands), LEGO (Something for the children) and let’s not forget the creators of the famous Danish pastry. What does this have to do with energy efficiency you might ask?

Denmark have only gone and won the prestigious energy efficiency prize (Woohoo). Since 1980, the Danish economy has grown by 78%, while energy consumption has remained more or less constant, and CO2 emissions have been reduced.

Around 30% of Denmark’s electricity is generated via wind power. To encourage investment in wind power, families were offered a tax exemption for generating their own electricity within their own or an adjoining commune. While this could involve purchasing a turbine outright, more often families purchased shares in wind turbine cooperatives which in turn invested in community wind turbines. By 2004 over 150,000 Danes were either members of cooperatives or owned turbines.

Solar power also has a big part to play, as the country reached its year 2020 government goal of 200 MW solar cell capacities in 2012, and has 500 MW solar capacities in 90,000 private installations as of 2013.

A notable mention is also the countries two geothermal district heating plants, one in Thisted started in 1988, and one in Copenhagen started in 2005.

The ‘EE Visionary Award’ was accepted by Peter Taksøe-Jensen (Denmark’s ambassador to the US) at Washington DC. The award acknowledges the countries efforts at reducing energy consumption nationally and abroad.

The climate and energy minister, Rasmus Helveg Petersen, has said in a press release:

“I am excited to receive this award, which I believe confirms Denmark’s position among the world’s leaders at getting the most out of each kilowatt-hour,”

Denmark has taken energy efficiency work very seriously over the last decade and in 2011 the Danish government announced the “Energy Strategy 2050” with the aim to be fully independent of fossil fuels by 2050. When it comes to their wind power generation, the government targets 50% wind power in the electricity system by 2020.

Rasmus Helveg Petersen also went on to say;

“Over the years, Danish energy policy has required courage and investment, but it has in turn reaped major benefits, both environmentally and economically.”

Denmark weren’t the only prize winners, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lee Jong-Cheol also received awards for their efforts in reducing energy consumption at a regional and local level. The trophy is handed out in association with the annual energy conference Energy Efficiency Global Forum.

Iceland plans to get hot and steamy…

28 Feb

The Earths centre is around 6000 degrees Celsius and is hot enough to melt rock. At just a few kilometres down, the temperature can be over 250 degrees Celsius if the Earth’s crust is thin.

Geothermal energy works as follows; Hot rocks underground heat water to produce steam. We then drill holes down to the hot region; steam comes up, is purified and used to drive turbines, which drive electric generators. Walla we have energy.

Geothermal energy is not a recent development; it has been used for thousands of years. In some countries, they used this form of energy for cooking and heating. The name “geothermal” comes from two Greek words: “geo” means “Earth” and “thermal” means “heat”.

Iceland has decided to break records by becoming the first country to utilise the world’s magma as a source of power. The country has built a geothermal energy system to take advantage of the Earths heat to generate electricity.

Geothermal systems are currently well established in science which involves pumping water deep below the ground, which boils, turns to steam and pushes a turbine as it returns back to the surface. But Iceland has gone the extra mile. They have created a system which produces steam in a region of molten, rather than solid rock.

In Iceland the researchers fitted a valve where superheated steam could flow through in sufficient quantities to generate 36 megawatts of power. This will mark the second time researchers have effectively drilled into a magma bubble. The only country before this was Hawaii, who created a plug and installed it to the bottom of the hole for protection.

Iceland made precautions to connect the steam output to a nearby electrical plant in Krafla (Northeast Iceland), but the valve failed resulting in the hole needing to be closed. Regardless of this, the Iceland Deep Drilling Project (IDDP) has confidence in that it can reopen the hole, 2.1 kilometres below the surface.

They also intend to drill an additional borehole in the Reykjanes peninsula in the southwest of the country. The IDDP said;

“The experiment at Krafla suffered various setbacks and tried personnel and equipment throughout. However, the process itself was very instructive, and… comprehensive reports on practical lessons learned are nearing completion.”

“The success of this drilling and research is amazing to say the least, and could in the near future lead to a revolution in energy efficiency in high-temperature geothermal areas of the world”

A major problem with geothermal energy is the cost of test drilling as approximately 50% of test drilling produces negative results with zero geothermal activity. This becomes difficult when commercial banks are involved as it is simply too high a risk to fund. Thus, countries must be confident on where this type of technology can and should be installed.

A number of countries around the world have some confidence when it comes to geothermal energy as they are located on what is known as ‘The ring of fire’.  This is an area where a large number of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur in the basin of the Pacific Ocean. In a 40,000 km (25,000 mi) horseshoe shape, it is associated with a nearly continuous series of oceanic trenches, volcanic arcs, and volcanic belts and/or plate movements. It has 452 volcanoes and is home to over 75% of the world’s active and dormant volcanoes.

So, while all eyes are currently on Iceland…if successful we could see a huge jump in geothermal, utilising the natural resources the Earth has to offer.

The pirates of the Caribbean: Project Geothermal Energy

17 Jan

In today’s world renewable energy is on the rise with solar and wind proving popular developments. Another form of energy currently being harnessed is Geothermal which is thermal energy stored in the earth. In recent months, a few companies have been planning to develop geothermal energy projects in areas across the Caribbean. The regions include Nevis Island, Dominica and St. Vincent.

At present, the Caribbean’s electricity is generated via polluting oil or diesel fired generators both of which are not good for the environment. This has impelled the government to examine alternative energy sources around the islands. Wind and solar power have also been considered due to their low-carbon emissions but by many are viewed as providing a supply of power too erratic, changing from one day to the next. The government want a steady, confident source of energy.

The location of the islands has a huge part to play as they are positioned in an ideal place for geothermal energy development. The islands are above and near two continent plates where volcanic activity has formed high temperature lakes. Bruce Cutright, the chief technology officer at Nevis Renewable Energy International said the island of Nevis is, “blessed with an attractive source of geothermal energy”. If the Caribbean government could harness this correctly, it would have a huge impact on the environment and result in an electricity cost saving to the government and local population.

Cutright considers the most appropriate technology to implement to be flash steam generators. He says; “High temperature steam will be produced from the deep geologic reservoir, directed through a steam turbine that will turn an electrical generator to produce electrical power,”

Other countries around the world have been installing this type of technology gradually over the past few years. New Zealand is one of the leading countries that have already taken full advantage of geothermal energy by developing more than 800 megawatts (MW) of geothermal capacity. This accounts for about 19% of its energy supply according to the New Zealand Ministry of Economic Development.

Cutright has stressed that the plan is too young to talk about specifics but has indicated that, “it would be the intent of the Nevis Island Government and the electrical utility to work cooperatively with NRE International to produce electricity at a geothermal generating facility, distribute this power through the existing transmission network on the island, to serve the people and the industry on the island of Nevis.”  He advised that the similar developments across the Caribbean are expected to face a number of monetary and physical challenges.

“Because of the small size of the markets on each island, it is somewhat more difficult to attract the capital investment necessary to construct and operate geothermal power plants,” he said. Other countries around the world have struggled with capital investment and therefore took matters into their own hands. For example, In Chile the government are playing with the idea of subsidy’s or support to private developers.

At present, Mexico and more northern areas are gradually installing geothermal plans but South American regions are falling behind due to a number of reasons ranging from costs to environmental issues. In early 2013 the World Bank declared that it would begin a $500M fund to help nurture geothermal concessions around the world. Geothermal projects take a long time to develop and can take up to a decade to complete.

I fell into a burning ring of fire…I went down, down, down…

7 Nov

In today’s world renewable energy is on the rise with solar and wind proving popular developments. Another form of energy currently being harnessed is Geothermal which is thermal energy stored in the earth. New Zealand has already taken full advantage of this by developing more than 800 megawatts (MW) of geothermal capacity that accounts for about 19% of its energy supply according to the New Zealand Ministry of Economic Development.

New Zealand sits within “The ring of fire”, a geothermal region which extends in the shape of a horseshoe from New Zealand, up through Asia looping back to North America, then down the pacific coast to the bottom tip of South America. The horseshoe is lined with more than 400 precious volcanoes making it a geothermal dream!


At present South America are not using the geothermal energy they are sat on making it an “open frontier” according to Pierre Audinet a clean energy program leader of the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program. “South America has an enormous perceived potential. And there is a nascent desire of many governments to actually get that potential to become a reality,”

Mexico and more northern areas are gradually installing geothermal plans but South American regions are falling behind due to a number of reasons ranging from costs to environmental issues.

A major problem is the cost of test drilling as approximately 50% of test drilling produces negative results with zero geothermal activity. This becomes difficult when commercial banks are involved as it is simply too high a risk to fund. According to Audinet much of the development within Latin America and Eastern Africa have been funded and led by the private sector. Audinet added, “You end up having hefty capital expenditure just to drill a couple of wells and verify your geothermal source”.

Governments are beginning to realise that action is required but so far haven’t been able to implement a plan.  For example, In Chile the government are playing with the idea of subsidy’s or support to private developers. For this type of technology it becomes very difficult due to the amount of planning and funding involved. Audinet said “We wish you could put in a FIT [feed-in tariff] and everything would move along, but unfortunately it doesn’t work like that for this technology,”

Another problem faced is environmental concerns for geothermal development. Unlike solar power we are unable to select the positioning of plants. Some geothermal sites that are being planned land in national parks or places where indigenous people live. This extends project times and leads to additional development hurdles.

Alterra Power Corp, a geothermal developer based in Canada announced in 2012 that they would partner up with Energy Development Corporation. They plan to pursue six of Alterra’s geothermal enterprises in South America. One in particular based in Chile called the Mariposa Project could be live by 2017. “This transaction represents a significant step forward for our geothermal assets in Chile and Peru,” said John Carson, Alterra’s CEO.

Change is on the horizon as in early 2013 the World Bank declared that it would begin a $500M fund to help nurture geothermal concessions around the world. Geothermal projects take a long time to develop and can take up to a decade to complete. Thus it may take a long time before geothermal is fully functional but Audinet expects to see a spike in activity…watch this space!



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