If geothermal power stations on the seabed become a reality in Iceland, the plan is to sell the power straight to Europe through an undersea cable.
This direct sale, bypassing Iceland’s terrestrial electricity grid, would generate the best price possible for the electricity without forcing electric prices up in Iceland, it is hoped.
North Tech Energy has been granted a research license to explore the seabed for suitable geothermal sites off Reykjanes and North Iceland, from which the company hopes it can generate electricity, as reported earlier this week.
“The energy price in Iceland is very low,” says North Tech Energy CEO Geir Hagalínsson. “Electricity production out at sea is much dearer than on land. We need a certain price per kilowatt hour to make it economical,” he adds.
Another way to get more money is to use the electricity generated in the production of hydrogen—as there has already been interest from Japan to buy hydrogen produced in Iceland; so hydrogen is another avenue North Tech Energy will be looking into. Hydrogen is seeing expanded usage options around the world, not only for powering vehicles, but also for powering homes, industry and more, RÚV reports.
Meanwhile, another reason for not simply connecting the proposed geothermal drilling and generation rig(s) to Iceland and its domestic power grid is that it could force the domestic price of electricity to go up.
“If we bypass Iceland, as I understand it, there is no danger of the cost of electric shooting up here, as people fear. If we need to take it ashore and then connect Iceland with Europe then there is the debate about energy prices in Iceland following prices in Europe,” Geir says.
Landsvirkjun and the authorities in the UK and Iceland are already discussing the creation of the world’s longest undersea power cable, through which Icelandic renewable energy could be sold to Britain and beyond. However, one of the arguments against the cable is the question of how much extra energy Iceland will need to produce in order to make the cable worthwhile—and how many extra geothermal stations and hydro dams will need to blot the fragile landscape.
If successful, seabed geothermal could relieve that pressure and allow for extra power generation without spoiling the landscape in Iceland.
But is it even realistic to drill for hot water under the sea?
Geothermal specialist Bjarni Richter, who works for Iceland Geosurvey, says yes. Iceland Geosurvey has been helping North Tech Energy apply for and receive its exploration license and Bjarni is optimistic.
“I think it is a realistic option. There are geothermal fields out at sea that we know of and are familiar with, and doubtless others we don’t know about. The technology to drill at these depths already exists in the oil trade. So, I think that, from a technical point-of-view, it is a realistic option.”