Iceland: A Model for Renewable Energy
Iceland today is a renewable-energy powerhouse. Did you know, however, that less than fifty years ago it was largely reliant on imported peat and coal to power its homes and businesses? Following World War II, multiple initiatives were begun to convert all electricity and heat in Iceland over to renewables, in the form of homegrown hydropower and geothermal. By the early 1970s, this became a reality, and today the only power sector in Iceland that does not rely exclusively on renewables is the transportation sector. One hundred percent of Iceland’s electricity and heat comes from renewables, and nine out of ten homes in Iceland are heated directly with geothermal energy. Geothermal provides benefits aside from electricity and heating as well, including being used to melt snow off sidewalks, heat swimming pools, power fish farms, greenhouse cultivation, and food processing, and in the production of cosmetics.
“Iceland’s story is also a reminder that not only rich developed countries have the opportunity to overcome cost and internal barriers for a green transition. Perhaps it may be easier to implement new power solutions where power systems have not yet been fully implemented and stakeholders can be more mobilized to change the status quo.” — UN Chronicle, December 2015
Yesterday we visited the Hellisheiði Power Station, a geothermal plant that sits just outside Reykjavik. There we met with Edda Sif Aradóttir, a chemist and reservoir engineer who also serves as the project manager for the CarbFix project, which is developing innovative methods and technology for permanent CO2 storage. Edda is an inspirational female scientist with a commitment toward helping curb global warming and make our world a cleaner, safer place for all. She explained to us how geothermal plants work in Iceland, and how the CarbFix project is working with the power station to research and develop new technologies for storing CO2 in basalt. It also is working to remove the smell of sulfur from the air that is generated from the geothermal waters. Check out a clip from our interview with Edda above!
We were inspired by our visit with Edda to see that it is possible for an entire country to make the switch from fossil fuels to renewables in a relatively short period, as well as finding ways to draw as much as possible from its own renewable resources rather than seeking to import energy from abroad.
For teachers seeking to introduce renewable-energy learning in the classroom, here are some great lessons and resources you might find of interest:
- Iceland’s Sustainable Energy Story: A Model for the World?
- Geothermal Energy: Five Activities for Grades 5-8
- Geothermal Energy: A Geothermal Teacher Guide for Grades 9-12
- Geothermal Energy: Harnessing the Power of the Earth (for teachers)
- Geothermal Energy: Harnessing the Power of the Earth (lesson for grades 4-8)
- Lesson: Renewable Energy (grades 3-5)
- Exploring alternative energy sources – Lesson Plan (grades 10-12)
- Renewables are Ready: A Guide to Teaching Renewable Energy in Junior and Senior High School Classrooms
- Lesson: Capturing Renewable Energy (grades 6-8 and 9-12)