Iceland’s Svartsengi geothermal plant, which abuts the Blue Lagoon spa.
Iceland Debates the Limits of Geothermal
The tiny nation of Iceland is often cited as a model for the world in its use of renewable energy. Virtually all of its electricity comes from dams or geothermal power plants. Drive around the countryside, as I did last month, and you will see billows of steam coming from some hillsides, a sure sign of a geothermal operation with the occasional hot springs attached.
Some Icelanders are questioning just how long the renewable power can last. At the core of the debate are the country’s efforts to build up a power-intensive aluminum industry — itself an effort to diversify the economy away from fishing. Already some 80 percent of Iceland’s electricity goes to heavy industry, mainly the country’s three big aluminum plants, according to Iceland’s new environment minister, Svandís Svavarsdóttir.
Work has begun on a new aluminum plant near the airport, though it appears to be proceeding only slowly. Arni Finnsson, the head of Iceland’s Nature Conservation Association, argues that the plant would be such an energy hog that it would “virtually wipe out all geothermal electricity in southwest Iceland.”
Balance of article: The New York Times