Iceland is like one big power plant

Akureyri. A city in the north of Iceland. The biggest actually in the area. Around 18.000 people live here and they all benefit from the natural source of heating. Hot water flows in various layers in the ground and for almost 40 years the villagers have used the hot water for district heating. They call it geothermal heating, but even the Vikings benefitted from the natural source of energy, when they dipped into hot springs during winter.

Árni Árnason, Chief Engineer from Norðurorka, is in charge of the water utility in Akureyri. His job is to keep the hot water flowing at a constant pressure.

“We have several hundred boreholes as far as Laugaland 12 kilometres away. The water is around 82-95 degrees Celsius when we pump it out of the ground and from the farthest boreholes, it will travel up to 20 hours at low pressure to reach the city,” he says.

The hot water is stored in the ground under extreme temperatures and pressure and CR pumps from Grundfos in various sizes help deliver the hot water to the recipients.

Iceland is volcanic and the ground is still both active and very hot indeed. When it rains or when snow is melting in the spring, water seeps through volcanic lava before it hits the hot underground. Many places the water is just beneath the surface.

A vast natural resource

The hot water is going directly to the consumers who use it for heating houses, farms, heated pools, factories and greenhouses. Some even use it for cooking where it comes in handy when time is short.

The Icelanders are known for their concern for the environment and natural resources, so they try to get all the energy out of the water before it is returned to nature. In many cities the water is led through pipes in both pavements and roads keeping them ice-free during winter.

Just outside Akureyri there’s for example a small CR-pump next to a dirt road leading up to Arnar Arnasons dairy farm. He is connected to the grid and is paying around 100 Icelandic kroner per cubic metre.

“I think it´s fantastic, that we have this natural source at a very reasonable price. It gives me a clean conscience,” he says and explains that he sends the hot water through pipes in his house and his garage, before it is led to the river.

Bigger potential

Across from the city, on the other side of the Eyjafjörður lies a greenhouse that shines like a beacon in the shimmering afternoon.

In the beginning of December there is only around 6 hours of daylight, so the plants need extra light. Of course, also produced sustainably from hydro plants. Inside Anna Sigríður Pétursdóttir is harvesting the second batch of green and yellow peppers bound for the local market.

“We are a fairly new industry and we can only exist because of our natural hot water, that keeps the running costs low. And we could easily produce more because we have the almost infinite source of energy,” she says.

She produces around 25,000 kilos of peppers per year and also some cucumbers during summer. To help circulate the hot water in her buildings she uses different pumps for both circulating hot and cold water and for dosing the fertilizer.