Paper No. 10-4
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM
USING ICELAND’S SUSTAINABLE ENERGY PLATFORM TO ILLUSTRATE BENEFITS OF RENEWABLE SOURCES
Iceland makes for an interesting case study that can potentially model a sustainable transition away from fossil fuels and into a renewable energy future. However, more than just politics affects how Iceland became the world’s largest clean energy producer per capita. To understand this, tectonic and environmental factors play a large consideration in shaping the production of Iceland’s renewable energy. Iceland has reinvigorated itself from a country solely dependent on burning peat and imported coal and oil, into a country leading the way in sustainable energy innovation. As of 2014, 85% of the primary energy generated in Iceland comes from domestic, renewable sources. The electrical energy produced in Iceland comes completely from domestic renewable sources, 71% produced by hydroelectricity and 29% from geothermal production. Iceland is particularly suitable for developing geothermal and hydroelectric energy because of the geologic dynamics that shape its environment. Over 130 volcanoes exist on the island (30+ are active) due to the Mid-Atlantic ridge that splits the landmass three ways and heats streams/tributaries to temperatures of 300° F+ on the surface, and over 700° F deeper in the water. Furthermore, melting and shifting of glaciers forms glacial rivers and waterfalls which allows for Iceland to harness vast hydroelectric potential. In 2014, Iceland generated upwards of 72% of their total energy production entirely from hydroelectric power, or a little less than 2 MW. Currently there are over 50 hydroelectric plants active in Iceland, however the National Energy Authority has plans to expand this number as energy demands increase. Additionally, Iceland’s incredible geothermal capacity and numerous hydrothermal reservoirs give the small island amazing potential to be completely self-sustaining and independent from fossil fuels. In 2016, about 29% of the electricity generated in Iceland was from geothermal sources, accounting for 5.067 GWh. Understanding how European countries, such as Iceland, have become leaders in sustainable energy can help guide the advancement of renewable energy projects in the United States.