“My Daddy worked a lifetime…yeah
for the Power Company…
Turning night into day... yeah...yeah
for the Power Company"
- Eric Burdon
In Iceland, they don’t drill for oil and gas - they drill for hot water. Almost all Icelandic buildings are heated by hot water – piped direct from the earth’s core to them via a labyrinth of pipes spanning the country.
Geothermal energy is also being used to generate electricity, and geothermal power plants are being constructed to satisfy the country’s ever increasing demands for an economical source of electric power. One of largest of these is the Krafla Geothermal Power Station.
The Krafla Geothermal Power Station is situated in one of the most volcanically active areas in Iceland. Located directly on the fault that separates the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, the land here is being pulled apart at the rate of several inches per year. The fault is simultaneously shearing in a north/south direction.
The result is a major geothermal "hot zone" with the volcano Krafla serving as the region’s unofficial bulls-eye.
When Krafla erupts, it doesn’t form the familiar cone that we associate with volcanoes – it erupts along a series of fissure vents - long tears in the surface of the earth – and spews molten lava over a wide area. Lava fountains from the "Krafla Fires" between 1724 and 1729 could be seen all the way to the south shore of Iceland. Krafla last erupted in 1984.
The magma is close to the surface here – very close, and that makes it an ideal source of geothermal energy. The Krafla Geothermal Power Station attempts to harness that energy by drilling deep wells that tap directly into the heat below. Superheated water and steam are then pumped to the Power Station’s turbines and used to generate electricity.
The Iceland Deep Drilling Project is a consortium of government agencies and utility companies trying to improve the economics of geothermal energy production by drilling much deeper wells in an attempt to tap into temperatures far in excess of what can otherwise be achieved.
In 2004, an IDDP drill unexpectedly entered a magma chamber at just over 2 km depth. The contact immediately melted both the drill head, and the thermometer provided to measure the temperatures encountered. Fortunately, the hole was capped without further incident.
Iceland’s goal is to be the World’s first 100% fossil-fuel-free nation.