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Gathering Steam

Magazine

Gathering Steam

Long considered at the forefront of geothermal utilization and innovation at home, Iceland is increasingly providing scientific and technical expertise to the geothermal industry abroad.

Published in the 2013 June-July issue of Iceland Review – IR 03.13. By Zoë Robert. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.

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Located in one of the most volcanically active places on earth, Iceland has an abundance of hot springs which have been used for bathing and other domestic activities throughout the centuries.

The first steps to modern usage in Iceland were taken in 1908 when farmer Stefán B. Jónsson connected a pipe from a hot spring to this house in Mosfellsbær, just north of the capital, providing a steady supply of heat.

With the help of geothermal energy, Iceland—one of the poorest countries in Europe in the early part of the 20th century— was gradually transformed into a modern economy. The importance of a cheap and domestic energy source for Iceland’s future became clear during the oil crisis of 1973 and production was subsequently stepped up.

Today, more than 90 percent of houses in Iceland are heated with geothermal energy and 25 percent of the nation’s electricity is also produced through the resource (the remainder through hydropower), the highest proportion of any country in the world.

Apart from space heating and electricity, geothermal is also used in the country’s swimming pools, fish farms and greenhouses.

Pioneering Beginnings

As a result of these early developments and continued emphasis on research and innovation, Iceland has long been considered a pioneer in the field of geothermal energy. Over the years, Iceland has also been involved in bringing the latest in geothermal technology to the world including through the government’s increasing emphasis on the energy source as a priority area in the country’s Strategy for Development Cooperation.You can read the remainder of this article in the June-July issue of Iceland Review – IR 03.13. Five times a year the print edition of Iceland Review & Atlantica brings you a wealth of articles on all aspects of life in Iceland including Páll Stefánsson’s latest images of the country’s majestic landscape. Click here to subscribe and here to browse through a selection of pages from the current issue.