Geothermal power plants
dot Iceland’s landscape.
PHOTO cOuRTEsy Of Ray THEON
More than four years after an economic meltdown,
Iceland is on the verge of a potentially huge windfall:
exporting its abundant geothermal energy.
The remote Nordic nation of 320,000 people only uses about 17 percent of its electricity to power
homes and domestic industry, which keeps energy prices extremely low. And the supply shows no
signs of slowing. In January, the nation’s Parliament green-lit more than a dozen new energy projects,
including 11 geothermal power stations.
To help turn its energy surplus into financial riches, Iceland’s leaders are now considering connecting the country’s electricity grid with continental Europe, using up to 1,931 kilometers ( 1,200
miles) of undersea cable.
“Prices are so low in Iceland that it is normal that we should want to sell to Europe and get a better price,” Stein Agust Steinsson, manager of the Krafla Power Station, told The New York Times.
If the ambitious cable-connection project is completed, Iceland would gain a lucrative foothold
into the European Union’s energy markets, which serve some 500 million people and pay about twice
the going rate that Iceland’s national power company charges.
Britain, meanwhile, would reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. In 2009, the European Union
agreed to a mandatory target of deriving at least 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources
by 2020. The mandate has put a premium on electricity generated
from geothermal, wind and water projects.
The potential Iceland-United Kingdom partnership is part of a global
trend toward increased interest in geothermal power. A recent report by
Pike Research showed that geothermal development has expanded from
26 countries in 2010 to 64 at the start of this year, with 567 geothermal
projects underway worldwide.
hot water and
That’s ideal for
such as building
—Kristinn Haflidason, Invest in
Iceland, Reykjavik, Iceland
Red Hot in
Defense contractors have long
pitched blimps as low-budget
threat detectors: They can stay
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don’t require pilots or frequent
refueling. Once equipped with
targeting radar and wide-range
surveillance, the aerostats have
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ity that can extend more than
300 miles (483 kilometers) to
accurately spot ballistic missiles.
Yet, over the past decade,
project after project has been
vanquished by overspending
and missed deadlines. Still, one
remains afloat: the Joint Land
Attack Cruise Missile Defense
Elevated Netted Sensor System
(JLENS), being developed by
Raytheon Company. In February,
the U.S. Army moved forward
with a US$60 million plan to set
up a test site and have two JLENS
blimps up and running near
Washington, D.C., USA by 2014.
“They couldn’t have found
a more difficult environment,”
Mark Rose, Raytheon’s program
director, told Bloomberg Busi-
nessweek. “It’s the mid-Atlantic,
there’s a huge number of
aircraft, commercial and private,
to test the system.”
But Dean Barten, the Army’s
product manager for JLENS,
called the high-profile location
“icing on the cake.”
On The Grid
Iceland’s government-owned power company, Landsvirkjun, has already
shared some details for the proposed cable-connection project. The mas-
sive submarine interconnector would first extend 1,127 kilometers (700
miles) to the north of Scotland and then to continental Europe, another
805 kilometers (500 miles) away. Once finished, the cable connection
would be three times longer than the existing link between Norway and
the Netherlands, currently the world’s longest.
It would be part of a vision, backed by U.K. Prime Minister
David Cameron, of a pan-European supergrid that would ultimately
meld Scottish wind power, German solar power, Belgian and Danish hydropower, and other renewable resources.
Seen in this context, the notion of exporting surplus Icelandic
energy makes sense to many stakeholders and outside observers.
Iceland President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson has called the project
“interesting” and says it will not only create revenue for his country,