Geothermal District Heating in Iceland

Iceland - The Global Leader of Geothermal Energy

Geothermal District Heating in Iceland


Geothermal District Heating In Iceland
Icelandic geothermal power plant and a district heating pipe

Iceland experiences moderately cool summers, and often bone-chilling winters. Reykjavik (the capital city of Iceland) draws heating from the country’s enormous geothermal energy potential. This is true for the rest of the country, as well.

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.

Iceland is covered by mountains and volcanoes, in a country with constantly shifting tectonic plates. Some 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.

Iceland is home to many geysers and hot springs - ideal sources of geothermal energy.

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, namely geothermal energy and hydroelectricity, helps to make Reykjavik a renewable energy-based 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.

Please also see:

Green City Solutions: Reykjavik, Iceland

(for more on the abundance of geothermal sources in Iceland)

History of Geothermal District Heating in 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, pioneering the field of modern geothermal district heating.

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.

An infant version of district heating using local geothermal heat as the sole energy source was implemented in Reykjavik nearly 100 years ago. The capital Reykjavik kicked things off in 1930 by heating a small elementary school, the national hospital, and 60 residences in the city.

Heat, in the form of steam, was brought from the many geothermally active sources surrounding the city via pipes to heat buildings.

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 about 90% of buildings in the city.

Outside of Reykjavik, the use of geothermal district heating in Iceland is widespread. Around 90% of the heating and hot water in the country is made possible with geothermal district heating.

Reykjavik - A Renewable Energy City


While energy from hydroelectricity provides the majority of electricity for the country (about 73%) geothermal energy is the second largest energy source for Iceland (about 27%). Geothermal energy is the main source of heating and hot water for the entire country (about 90%). The rest of the heating for Iceland's building is provided by electricity sourced from hydroelectric and geothermal energy.

In fact, thermal springs with naturally hot water, and geysers with hot water and steam, are so abundant in Reykjavik, that naturally-occurring 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 district heating globally.