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Picking up Steam for ISK 13 Billion

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Picking up Steam for ISK 13 Billion

Hellisheiði geothermal power plant

Hellisheiði Geothermal Plant. Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

An investment of ISK 13 billion (USD 119 million, EUR 112 million) will be needed to ensure adequate steam for Hellisheiði Geothermal Plant, RÚV reports.

Bjarni Bjarnason, CEO of Reykjavík Energy, stated that plans have failed and utmost caution has not been shown. In 2013, energy output was expected to go down by 7 megawatts a year, but instead, it was reduced by about three times that amount, or 20 megawatts annually.

After the plant entered full operation in September of 2011, it became apparent that the production area used at the time would not be sufficient for full operation indefinitely. In 2013, the decision was made to connect the Hverahlíðarsvæði area to Hellisheiði Geothermal Plant in order to obtain more steam and spread out the production. That connection was made at the beginning of 2016, after which it became possible to reduce production in older areas closer to the Hellisheiði plant, giving them a chance to recover.

In the next ten years, 15 new boreholes are planned to maintain the production capability of the Hellisheiði plant. In 2013, it was regarded bad enough that output would decrease by 7 megawatts a year, but the reality turned out to be three times as bad.

In recent years, the troubles of Hellisheiði Geothermal Plant have often been attributed to aggressive exploitation of the resources. RÚV asked Bjarni whether adding all those boreholes wouldn’t invite more trouble. He responded that while the large plant at Hellisheiði was originally built in one go, the plan for the additional boreholes is that on average, only one and a half of them will be drilled annually for the next ten years.

He admitted that this large drop in output is a shock for the geothermal industry. “Yes, we can assert that perhaps utmost caution was not shown, but when it comes to geothermal issues in general, I believe the knowledge and experience of Icelanders is recognized in an international context and seen as exemplary.”

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