Tag Archives: Iceland

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.


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.

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