environmental activity

The future is Iceland: On its way to total self-sustainability

Iceland’s geothermal fields. Photo credit: V C via Flickr.

By Rebecca Clark

For such a tiny and unassuming island, it’s surprising how environmentally advanced this quaint Nordic country is. Interest has been quietly growing in Iceland due to the appearance of its national football team during the 2016 Euros, who managed to put on quite a show (for an underdog), annihilating England 2-1.
Iceland is a hotbed for environmental activity owing to its vast mountain ranges, glaciers, volcanos and geysers, making it a perfect place to harness the power of Mother Nature into sustainable energy, which was first thought of at the start of the 20th Century.
Shockingly, 100% of Iceland’s electricity is powered by renewable energy. The country only turns to fossil fuels as a backup plan. 87% of that energy is powered by hydropower, the surrounding oceans and runoff from mountains and glaciers make the harnessing of hydropower a no-brainer. The 13% that gets left over is powered by geothermal activity, that’s environmental activity that occurs beneath the earth producing naturally hot water and steam.
Half of all the electricity needed to power Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavik is thanks to the geothermal plant, Nasjavellir, 20 miles outside of the city. This plant consists of three condensing steam units producing 90 megawatts (MW) of electricity while the plant heats water for the capital and delivers it through 800mm pipelines.
The idea for using Iceland’s natural geothermal activity came about during the 1940s and saves the country around $100 million that would usually be spent importing expensive fossil fuels. This renewable energy source heats open-air swimming pools, heats homes and runs under the streets to keep 40,000 meters of road and driveways clear of snow.
This little island is full of future innovation too. Currently, due to the need to import fossil fuels for the running of transport, Iceland has one of the highest carbon emission levels per person in the world. In order to combat this, scientists are working to split water molecules to harness the power of pure hydrogen to power those industries still relying on the importation of fossil fuels. The aim is to be the first completely renewable and self-sustaining country on the planet in the next 20-30 years.

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