Iceland’s next renewable frontier: geothermal energy from magma
Iceland has unveiled a new geothermal energy plant based on magma, the first of its kind, in order to take advantage of the country’s natural underground heat.
Researchers from the Iceland Deep Drilling Project (IDDP) initially drilled at the Krafla site in the north-east of the country back in 2008, but had to give up because of a valve failure. However, they are planning to open a second hole and do further tests in the Reykjanes peninsula.
A similar experiment was conducted previously in Hawaii, but in a slightly different way. On that occasion, scientists installed a concrete plug at the bottom of the hole, while in Iceland the hole was kept open in the part closest to the magma, allowing superheated steam to flow.
“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”, said the IDDP.
“The experiment at Krafla suffered various setbacks and tried personnel and equipment throughout. However, the process itself was very instructive.”
Ordinary geothermal energy involves pumping cold water into the heated ground, bringing it to the boil and using the steam to generate electricity through a system of turbines. It is the first time that steam has been produced by magma instead of solid rocks.
Geothermal energy is widely used in Iceland and New Zealand as they benefit from natural underground heat.
Iceland meets all its electricity needs from geothermal and hydropower alone. Renewable energy capacity in the country is much higher than its demand and for this reason, the UK looked at ways to import clean energy from Iceland through a series of electric cables.
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