Geothermal energy: Our visit to the Hellisheiði Power Plant

5/9/2021 - written by Philipp

TL;DR: As a part of the "Golden Circle Tour", we visited the Hellisheiði Power Plant and learned about the energetic history of Iceland, geothermal energy and a technical way to deal with the problem of CO2 in our atmosphere.

Sunday, 5 September 2021 was our first full day after arriving on Iceland. Our hosts wanted to take us on the so called "Golden Circle Tour" which is a classic road tour on Iceland featuring Gullfoss waterfall, Strokkur geyser and Þingvellir national park.

Because sustainability is one of our main topics, our tour also included a live demonstration of geothermal energy production. After having breakfast at the hotel, we got into our rented cars and headed for Hellisheiði Power Plant.

We had a difficult start:

Before we arrived at the power plant, one of our cars - a machine running on fossile fuel - was certainly not amused about the idea of green energy! In the middle of nowhere, the engine suddenly stopped working. While it was raining outside, a part of our group had to wait inside the broken vehicle. The Icelandic teachers managed to pick them up in about half an hour and finally everyone arrived safely at Hellisheiði.

From coal to renewable energy:

Besides a map of volcanic and geothermal activity, there was a whole exhibition about Iceland and the history of its energy mix. We learned that the use of renewable energy from geothermal or hydroelectric sources on Iceland has just been established during the last 80 years. Before that, the main source of energy was coal (and some oil).

It was astonishing to discover, that an entire nation has been able to make such huge progress in this short amount of time. When we think about Germany nowadays and the 15 years it took us only to build the Berlin Brandenburg Airport, the development of Iceland and its energy is very remarkable.

Iceland sure is on its way to be carbon-neutral in the near future!

Getting rid of existing CO2:

Researchers at the Hellisheiði Power Plant discovered a way to store existing CO2 gas in rocks below ground. This process is called CarbFix.

While utilizing geothermal acticity, CO2 from the atmosphere can be mixed into the water that is going deep down into earth. There, the CO2 - in form of carbonic acid - reacts with the bedrock and the minal Calcite is formed as a result. Thus, the greenhouse gas remains permanently stored underground.

For additional details, please have a look at Wikipedia: