An Icelandic volcano power plant named after the Nordic god “Thor” does more than symbolize cutting-edge efforts to produce sustainable energy.
An Icelandic volcano power plant named after the Nordic god “Thor” does more than symbolize cutting-edge efforts to produce sustainable energy, it is capable of producing up to 10 times more energy than existing conventional gas or oil wells. Part of the Iceland Deep Drilling Project (IDDP), the experimental undertaking is able to do this by generating electricity from the heat stored inside the Earth. In this case, a volcano is utilized.
Drilling for the volcanic power plant began in August of 2016 and finished on January 25, 2017. A record-breaking depth was reached — nearly 3 miles, or 4,659 meters. At this depth, oozing magma reaches an astounding 800 °F.
Engineers with the Icelandic energy company HS Orka intend “to access hot liquids under extreme pressures at temperatures of 427 degrees C (800 F), creating steam that turns a turbine to generate clean electricity,” reports Phys.
This process is known as geothermal energy and dates back to the 1970’s. Though the technology is nothing new, Iceland’s new project stands apart because extreme heat and pressure at the drilling depth make the water take the form of “supercritical” fluid – neither gas or liquid. Thor is able to produce clean, renewable energy by using the fluid to generate steam, which then results in turbines moving and generating power.
To supply Iceland’s capital Reykjavik (population 212,000) with power, 30-35 conventional wells would be needed. If the IDDP performs as expected, however, only 3-5 would be required. This, in turn, dramatically reduces costs.
It has taken scientists two years to determine the Iceland Deep Drilling Project (IDDP)’s success and economic feasibility. On May 7th, energy production kicked off. Though geothermal energy is not without fault, it is still preferable to gas, coal, and oil because emissions output is far less. According to Martin Norman, a Norwegian sustainable finance specialist at Greenpeace,
“As soon as you start drilling you have issues to it, such as sulphur pollution and CO2 emission and they need to find solutions to deal with it.”
In Iceland, geothermal is utilized to produce 25% of the country’s power; the rest comes from hydroelectric dams. Despite this, the nation is not expected to able to abide by the COP21 climate change agreement which was signed in Paris two years ago, shares the Institute of Economic Studies at the University of Iceland. This is a result of greenhouse gas emissions rising in all sectors of the economy, except for agriculture and fisheries. If “Thor” proves successful, however, engineers may have developed one more alternative to conventional oil and gas wells that could help lower overall greenhouse gas emissions.
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