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Iceland: – Iceland’s volcanoes may power United Kingdom

26/04/2012 | By | 11 Replies More


Iceland’s volcanoes may power United Kingdom

The United Kingdom government is investigating the possibility of tapping Iceland’s geothermal power via an undersea cable. The 1,900km cable from Iceland would be the longest in the world. It would join a network of existing cables and others under construction to form a Europe-wide power grid that could connect to solar power plants in places like Spain and North Africa. Reuters and the Guardian reported.

Iceland could soon be pumping low-carbon electricity into the UK under government-backed plans for thousands of miles of high-voltage cables from Iceland across the ocean floor.

The Energy Minister in UK, Charles Hendry

The Energy Minister in UK, Charles Hendry

The energy minister of UK, Charles Hendry, is to visit Iceland in May 2012 to discuss connecting the UK to its abundant geothermal energy. “We are in active discussions with the Icelandic government and they are very keen,” Hendry told the newspaper, Guardian. To reach Iceland, which sits over a mid-ocean split in the earth’s crust, the cable would have to be 1,200 to 1,500km long from Iceland and by far the longest in the world.

Minister Hendry has already met the head of Iceland’s national grid about the plan. The web of sea-floor cables – called interconnectors – planned for the next decade would link the UK to a Europe-wide supergrid, which is backed by the UK prime minister, David Cameron. The supergrid would combine the wind and wave power of northern Europe with solar projects such as Desertec in southern Europe and north Africa to deliver reliable, clean energy to meet climate change targets and reduce dependence on fossil fuel imports.

What will interconnectors means, between Iceland and Europe?
An interconnector would not only in Iceland enable sales of electricity generated by renewable energy resources, geothermal and hydropower sources, it would have various other benefits for the electricity system in Iceland, such as enhance the security of supply, enable more efficient use of generation capacity and facilitate a market for electricity in Iceland.

Possible routes of the submarine cable between Iceland and Europe

Possible routes of the submarine cable between Iceland and Europe

The study started in mid 2010 and ended towards the end of 2011. The study evaluates the feasibility of laying the world’s longest submarine HVDC power cable and addresses potential business models, markets and congestion management.Three scenarios are being studied. Firstly an interconnector that would be used for export/import based on market prices, secondly a cable used for export only and thirdly an interconnector partly used for export/import and partly for export.

The shortest possible distance of a cable from Iceland to a landing site in Europe is about 1,170 km, almost double the length of the NorNed interconnector (Norway-Netherlands), and the maximum debt would be about 1,000 m. A cable to the continent would be around 1,900 km. The transmission capacity would probably be between 600 and 1,000 MW.

An interconnector between Iceland and neighbouring countries has been discussed for decades. Various studies have been conducted, all with the conclusion that such a project is technically viable but not economically. A desk-top study conducted together with the Icelandic TSO, Landsnet, completed in 2010 indicated that this might have changed and an interconnector might be economically viable. The main rationale behind this change are higher electricity prices in Europe and increased demand for renewable energy with no or low emission of greenhouse gases

It is estimated that it will take further four to five years to study the feasibility and technical and economical aspects of building such an interconnector in Iceland. If and when a decision has been taken in Iceland, further four to five years are needed for production and installation of the cable, construction of converter stations and other related tasks. The project could thus commence operation around 2020 from Iceland, at the earliest.

Icelanders have the advantage of being few in number: the amount of energy that can be produced in Iceland is many times greater than is needed for domestic consumption. Over the past few decades, a high-capacity energy system – that produces electricity both for general consumption and for power-intensive industry – has been constructed. The huge changes that have taken place in the European and other markets in recent years – the most important of which are the interconnection of electricity markets in Europe, subsequent price rises, and the EU’s objective of increasing renewable energy’s share of electricity generation at the cost of sources such as gas and oil – have created previously unimagined opportunities for Icelanders.

The UK has been energy independent for virtually its entire history. But with the North Sea’s oil and gas failing and coal banned as too polluting, minister Hendry is frank about the future: “We will be dependent on imported energy“. The cables “are an absolutely critical part of energy security and for low carbon energy“, he said.

There are two existing international interconnectors, to France and the Netherlands, but nine more are either in construction, formal planning or undergoing feasibility studies. The next to open, in autumn 2012, will be a link between the Republic of Ireland and Wales, allowing green energy from the windswept Atlantic coast of Ireland to be delivered to British homes.

Tony Glover, at energy grid trade body the Energy Networks Association, said: “For consumers the ability to link electricity supplies from the rest of Europe is good for competition and will generally help to keep prices competitive“. The interconnectors can be built commercially with operators paying for the investment by taking a cut on the electricity transferred.

Submarine Cable

Submarine Cable

Interconnectors require large investments. The Britain-Netherland interconnector, which opened in 2011 and was the first international link in 25 years, cost £500m. But Greenpeace’s, Dr. Doug Parr said: “Interconnectors are the cheapest way of backing up wind, because you avoid the greater capital cost of building power stations. We will of course be buying power in when the wind is not blowing, but the interconnectors mean we can sell our wind power when it does, and we have the best wind resource in Europe“.

The United Nations University in Iceland, start the Geothermal Training Programme (UNU-GTP) in 1979. The UNU-GTP was established in the shadow of the oil crisis, when nations were looking for new and renewable energy sources in order to reduce dependence on hydrocarbons, in particular oil with its rapidly escalating prices. The current situation is somewhat similar in that the international community is looking towards renewable energy sources as an alternative for the hydrocarbons in order to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases. The hallmark of the UNU-GTP is to give university graduates engaged in geothermal work intensive on-the-job training in their chosen fields of specialization. The trainees work side by side with geothermal professionals in Iceland. The aim is to assist developing countries with significant geothermal potential in building up groups of specialists that cover most aspects of geothermal exploration and development.

Please join these video’s about the possible future project of the submarine cable from Iceland and from the Geothermal Training Programme in Iceland of the United Nations University.

Possible Future Project of the Submarine Cable from Iceland


UN University Geothermal Training Programme in Iceland


How a Geothermal Power Plant Works (Simple)
Most power plants—whether fueled by coal, gas, nuclear power, or geothermal energy—have one feature in common: they convert heat to electricity. Heat from the Earth, or geothermal — Geo (Earth) + thermal (heat) — energy is accessed by drilling water or steam wells in a process similar to drilling for oil.

Geothermal power plants have much in common with traditional power-generating stations. They use many of the same components, including turbines, generators, transformers, and other standard power generating equipment. While there are three types of geothermal power plants, this animation shows a generic plant.


On May 30th. 2012, the UK and Iceland signed Memorandum of Understanding that will strengthen the two countries’ relationship on energy issues. In the MoU, signed by Oddný G. Harðardóttir, Minister of Energy and her counterpart Charles Hendry, the two countries pledged to:

  • Exchange information on the development of the deep geothermal sector in the UK, including in the supply of heat to district heating networks;
  • Explore the possibility of developing electricity interconnection between Iceland and the UK, including relevant legal and regulatory issues;
  • Work with their respective Ministries for International Development on renewable energy projects in developing countries with a special focus on East Africa; and
  • Exchange information regarding the development of oil and gas industries, including offshore drilling.

You can read here the Memorandum of Understanding between United Kingdom and Iceland.


Category: Iceland

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