Sustainability | Renewable Energy

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Iceland - global leader of geothermal energy

Geothermal district heating in Iceland

A geothermal power station in Iceland that creates electricity from heat generated in Earth's interior.Iceland experiences moderately cool summers, and often bone-chilling winters. Situated directly on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, Iceland is one of the most geothermally active locations in the world. Geothermal energy is a low carbon heating and energy solution; a readily available sustainable energy solution for Reykjavik (the capital city of Iceland). Reykjavik, as well as the other Icelandic cities, draws energy from the country’s enormous geothermal energy potential.

Iceland is covered by mountains and volcanoes, in a country with constantly shifting tectonic plates. Many Icelandic volcanoes are active volcanoes. As a result, Iceland is home to underground rivers of magma, which result in hot water and steam under the extreme-weather-prone surface of the Icelandic countryside. Thus, Iceland is also home to many geysers and hot springs - ideal sources of geothermal energy.

Please also see:

Green City Solutions: Reykjavik, Iceland

for more on the abundance of geothermal sources of Iceland

The use of geothermal district heating in Iceland began nearly 100 years ago. Over the past century, the country and its citizens have worked diligently to perfect the system. The people and government have transformed Iceland into one of the leading countries in geothermal power, as well as the global leader in geothermal district heating. The capital Reykjavik kicked things off in 1930 by heating a small elementary school, the national hospital, and 60 residences in the city; with an infant version of district heating using local geothermal heat as the sole energy source.

Due to the success of these early efforts, the City of Reykjavik continued to work on evolving this technology. Reykjavik now provides geothermal district heating to 95% of buildings in the city. Outside of Reykjavik, the use of geothermal district heating in Iceland is widespread. Almost 90% of the heating and hot water in the country is made possible with geothermal heating.

Reykjavik - a complete renewable energy city

While energy from hydroelectricity provides the majority of electricity for the country (over 70%) geothermal energy is the second largest energy source for the country (over 25%). Iceland's largest geothermal combined heat and power plant, Hellsheidi Geothermal Power Plant, and a handful of other large geothermal plants, provide district heating, electricity, and hot water to Reykjavik, and much of the rest of the country.

The abundance of renewable energy in Iceland, such as geothermal energy and hydroelectricity, helps to make Reykjavik a complete renewable energy city. The large supply of readily available geothermal and hydroelectric energy allows most buildings in Reykjavik to  get hot water, just like with heating, pumped straight from city pipes. Many buildings in Reykjavik, and other Icelandic cities, get enough geothermal district heating to avoid the need for home boilers, water heaters, or gas lines.

In fact, thermal springs with naturally hot water, and geysers with hot water and steam, are so abundant in Reykjavik, that naturally hot water and steam are even piped and released under city streets to heat the street. This naturally-occurring geothermal hot water keeps roads free of ice and snow.

Please also see Green City Times' article on global district heating

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