Icelandic Culture
30 October 2019

How does Iceland use geothermal energy?

For modern Icelanders, geothermal energy is essential for living a comfortable life. It is hard for us to imagine how it was to live at a time when it was not used because it means hassle and cold.

Today, we use geothermal heating when we are sleeping, when we are awake, when we are naked and when we are tired. It is just one of those things!

Blue Lagoon Iceland

Geothermal swimming pools

One of the most popular past time of the common Icelander is the neighbourhood swimming pool. In the capital area, there are 17 geothermal swimming pools! For many, the day does not start unless they have gone to the hot tub at the swimming pool to discuss the most popular topics of that day (generally politics, of course). And it is worth noting that majority of those pools are outdoor pools, although a few have both an indoor and outdoor pool.

power plant in Iceland

Geothermal electricity

One of the best things about geothermal energy is electricity which is produced with steam. Icelandic geothermal power plants drill wells (to a depth of over 2km) to extract hot water vapour. The vapour is separated into liquid water and steam in so-called separators. The steam is then run through turbines that turn to produce electricity. After going through the turbines, the steam is condensed and reinjected into the geothermal reservoir. And there is much rejoicing as the circle of geothermal is complete with all of its magnificence and beauty.

Geothermal energy is not the only way Icelanders produce electricity, we also have hydro-power plants and we have started experimenting with windmills.

steam in Iceland

Geothermal central heating

We get our central heat from power plants and boreholes. For those interested, it is possible to see boreholes in Laugardalur in Reykjavík, for example. But because of the abundance of water, we do not treat the water with respect. It is not uncommon to take hour-long showers, we generally let the water run while we wash the dishes (if we do not have a dishwasher) and keep the radiators at full blast throughout winter. Any sign of cold, we turn up the heat! Not all places in Iceland use geothermal water for heating. In the Reykjanes Peninsula, for example, they use heated cold water, but they use geothermal steam to heat it up. One power plant that does this is Svartsengi, which is also the place that gives the Blue Lagoon its water. Many areas of Reykjavík also get heated cold water, especially those who get their water from ON Power.