Icelandic geothermal could one day help to power Britain

Icelandic geothermal energy could one day help to power British homes and businesses, thanks to a project scheduled to begin in 2020.

The Krafla Magma Testbed venture will involve drilling to a depth of 2km to reach a molten magma lake, then pumping water into the borehole to create supercritical steam, which would then be used to turn turbines.

Similar to the Iceland Deep Drilling (IDDP) project taking place in the south-west of the country, the Krafla Magma Testbed will be an exploratory drilling with a view to establishing the long-term feasibility of the method.

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It is predicted that these projects could be significantly more powerful than current geothermal technology, and capable of generating huge amounts of electricity.

Geothermal already plays a huge role in Icelandic energy mix, generating 25% of the country’s electricity according to the National Energy Authority (NEA).

This is explained by Iceland’s geographical position. Sat on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge – a tectonic boundary and area of geological activity – the country is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the geothermal resources for electricity generation, as well as for space and district heating and a number of industrial processes.

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A valley in inland Iceland where two tectonic plates meet

Read more: Iceland Deep Drilling Project

Because of the ready availability geothermal and hydropower (the country also generates 75% of its electricity from hydro) Iceland has a strong record when it comes to renewable energy technologies.

This is part of a wider trend across the Nordic countries – Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Norway and Sweden – which are progressive when it comes to renewable energy.

Denmark is committed to meeting 50% of national electricity demand with wind power by 2020; in Norway, 99% of electricity is produced by hydropower, while in Sweden 52% of energy comes from renewable sources.

Read more: The ultimate guide to renewable energy

If the Krafla Magma Testbed proves feasible over the long-term, the NEA is hopeful that excess energy could be transported via undersea cables and sold to the UK and other northern European countries.

However, the initial drilling costs and the cost of the proposed cable would be significant, though not prohibitively so. Costing exercises into the practicality of an interconnector cable between the countries have found that it would bring other economic benefits to both countries.

With research set to continue at the IDDP until the end of 2018, and the Krafla project not due to begin until 2020, there is no certainty about the efficacy of these methods.

Time will tell how effective these deep-drilling projects are; research will continue at the IDDP until the end of 2018 and the Krafla project will begin in 2020.