In Iceland, a Wealth of Renewable Energy

October 28, 2013

After the Earth 101 conference in Reykjavik, organizer Gudni Ellisson invited videographer Phil Coates and me to a tour of important renewable energy sites in south central Iceland.


Phil Coates in full Zen photon warrior mode

Phil is a top flight outdoor videographer, with recent credits documenting the Catlin Ice Survey,  and experience in just about every part of the world.  I’m not usually comfortable in front of a camera, but Phil insisted that I be a front man for interviews with Haldor Bjornsen of Iceland’s Met Office – our resident expert resource for the conference.  Then Phil did a bangup job of editing the resulting interviews in almost no time.


5 Responses to “In Iceland, a Wealth of Renewable Energy”

  1. Sweet. Iceland, like Denmark, is a small country exposed to the sea. This gives it a great natural energy source in wind. 85% of primary energy is domestically produced renewable, primarily, hydro. With their geothermal, they do not even need fossil fuels for space heating. Reminiscent of the Columbia River, hydro is used to do aluminum smelting. That means this is a place of abundant, cheap electricity. No wonder he commented that a link to Europe was needed to consider more wind. They have so much energy, they need demand. Fossil fuel is only used where electricity cannot provide a solution, that is, transportation. This is a great place for electric cars. With Iceland’s advantages, they are closest to fully renewable society.
    Work needs to be done on transportation alternatives.
    A peek a the list of renewables by country:
    100% of Iceland’s electricity comes from renewables, but it is not the only country.
    Albania, Lesotho, Paraguay, and Tajikistan also. Zambia, Norway, Nepal, Mozambique, Laos, Belize, Burundi, Costa Rica, Bhutan, and Angola are nearly 100%. The most significant country at 88.8% is Brazil. Nearly all have high hydro content. Only a few have more wind or solar, like Denmark, Germany, and Spain. What is remarkable about Iceland is that space heating is also renewable.

  2. redskylite Says:

    Not Iceland, but renewable related – but I am happy to see the U.S solar project is proceeding (375 Megawatts capacity) and will reduce carbon emissions by 400,000 tons per year. The current largest solar plant (to be the second largest on completion of the US project) is at Shams U.A.E producing 100 megawatts and displacing 175,000 tons of CO2 per year. (2 more are planned at Shams and the Oil company Total is a major contributor (so not all Oil companies are ignoring Climate Change challenges) – good for Total.

  3. Cy Halothrin Says:

    Yes, Iceland has abundant green energy resources, mainly hydro and geothermal. Iceland is also blessed with a tiny population of 300,000, and there isn’t a whole lot of heavy energy that demands electrical power. With so few people and minimal industry, plus so much green energy there for the taking, Iceland is an enviable position indeed.

    Unfortunately, it’s also almost a unique position. I can’t really think of another country with such abundant natural energy resources but so few people demanding that energy. New Zealand and Norway are well-endowed with hydro and some geothermal (at least in New Zealand), but both countries count their population in the millions, not hundreds of thousands like Iceland.

    My point being is that you can’t just project Iceland’s fortunate experience onto the rest of the world (as some would like to). I wish it were the case that China (population 1.3 billion) and the USA (330 million) could stop burning coal and become “another Iceland” by using just hydro and geothermal, but that is simply not possible.

    This is not to say that China and the USA can’t do better than their current glutinous fossil fuel-based energy consumption. But realistically, neither is capable of becoming another Iceland even if the desire was there.

    • Quite right, Cy. To differ a little, Iceland also uses its abundant hydro to smelt aluminum, a high electric consumption industrial process. Very nearly all aluminum is created this way. So in fact, Iceland does have industrial consumption. Brazil is a large country with 88.8% renewable, due to hydro, and biogas. The fact that the rest of the nations do not have such renewable percentages is due in large part to two factors.
      1. Hydro is old, but wind an solar are recent phenomena. Wave has not even started.
      2. Concentrated consumption fueled by fossil energy has grown quickly to excess, before sustainable renewables were added, in developed areas of the world.
      So we have built up an excess demand based on unsustainable energy sources. This will correct itself, if we don’t. Case in point, China. China cannot continue its coal use much longer. It has already hit the pollution limit. It will next see its domestic coal supply evaporate, and its water supply will not be able to sustain the current rate of growth. Fact is, all the developed nations will be forced to clean up their act. Things like dwindling oil reserves force recession. That curtails demand. AGW causes flooding, crop loss, increase insurance loss. All of this feeds into the economics. So the effects are direct and indirect and all very real. Right now we are experiencing recession in part due to rising oil prices and the various effects of AGW. There is no need to look to the future. The future is now.

  4. […] In Iceland, a Wealth of Renewable Energy | Climate Denial Crock of … […]

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