There are extensive hot spring areas
on the Reykjanes peninsula, and it was natural, therefore that local
people thought of heating their houses by geothermal sources. In 1961
the first plans for geothermal regional heating were completed for Keflavik,
Njardvik and Keflavik Airport. These plans were formulated
on behalf of the geothermal commission of Keflavik and Njardvik.
Further plans were made in 1963 for the Iceland Defence Force at Keflavik
Airport and in this case two geothermal areas were considered:
The Reykjanes peninsula and the Stapafell area, assuming that enough hot
water could be obtained by drilling.
EXPLORATION AND PLANNING:
In 1969 the town council of
Grindavik decided to explore the area near Svartsengi for the
possibility of geothermal heat, which could be harnessed for domestic
heating in Grindavik. In 1971 and 1972 two holes were sunk some three
miles north of the town Grindavik, near Svartsengi. These holes were
790 and 1300 feet deep. The result of this drilling was very promising
and proved among other things, that this was a 'high temperature area'
and the hot fluid was brine.
In January 1973 the Icelandic Energy Authority
completed preliminary plans for a regional heating system from
Svartsengi. The results of this planning were promising and seemed to
justify further exploration of that region. As a result, the
Energy Authority planned a complete exploration of the geothermal region
at Svartsengi and two more holes were sunk, 5000 and 5600 feet deep. In
addition, electric resistivity measurements were made there in an effort
to determine the total size of the 'hot' region. They seemed to indicate
that the extent of the geothermal system at a depth of several hundred
feet was about 400 ha. The outer perimeter could not be defined exactly
because the salinity of the ground water at some depth around the 'hot'
region still decreases the low resistivity that is coursed by the heat.
FOUNDATION OF THE SUDURNES REGIONAL HEATING CORP.
As it had been proven that technically it was both possible and feasible
to build a geothermal heating plant for the whole Sudurnes region using
the geothermal energy at Svartsengi, the various communities in the area
joined together to cooperate in this venture. The region
comprised seven separate towns or municipalities, each one having
it's own financial and political council. In addition Keflavik Airport
is situated in the middle of the area. This is an international airport
transit landing by various international airlines on their inter-continental
flights. Keflavik Airport was also a NATO base, where the
American Defence Force had it's main operation in Iceland in accordance
with a special treaty with the Icelandic government. With this
in mind, a law was passed in Althing (Parliament) in December 1974 to
facilitate this co-operative undertaking. The law states that Sudurnes Regional Heating shall be owned by the seven independent municipalities
and the State of Iceland. The proportions of ownership were to be as
follows: The regional municipalities 60% and the State of Iceland 40%.
It was considered essential that the State was a part owner to ensure
the rights of Keflavik Airport to the regional heating. A further
definition of ownership was decided on proportionally, based on the
regional census, as of the first day of December 1974, which resulted in
the following: Keflavik 31,04%, Grindavik 8,11 %, Njardvik 8,70%, Sandgerdi
5,55%, Gerdahreppur 3,76%, Vatnsleysustrond 2,13% and
Hafnir 0,71%. Total of 60%.
OWNERSHIP OF LAND AND ENERGY.
The drilling at
Svartsengi had revealed that there was more energy available there than
even the most optimistic people had hoped for. This naturally increased
the value of the land. However, an agreement was made between the
landowners and the Regional Heating stating the needs of the Regional
Heating Corporation for land and energy, and in addition an agreement
was reached on the terms of payment, while the total amount of payment
was to be decided by an arbitration committee consisting of three men to
be agreed upon by both parties. The decision of the arbitration
committee was based on the value of 99 ha of land, hits being the area
that was considered to be essential for the waste of water from the
power station. In addition to all the thermal energy within a 10 Ohm
resistivity line, consisting of an area roughly estimated 2100 ha. The
results of research indicate that in the near future, the thermal energy
outside the 5 Ohm resistivity line will not be needed. The size of the
area inside the 5 Ohm line is approximately 400 ha, and it is estimated
that this could yield sufficient energy supply for a 150 MW geothermal
power station. The decision on the value of the land and geothermal
power was Ikr. 87,700,000.- (approx. $ 1,4 million) in the year 1976.
MAIN TECHNICAL FEATURES.
Due to the high temperature
and salinity of the geothermal fluid, a special heat exchange process
was developed to make use of this energy source for district heating.
Fresh cold water is pumped from the ground in the vicinity of the Power
Plant and heated to some convenient temperature levels (95-125°C) and
then pumped to the small towns and villages for the direct use in the
individual heating systems and as hot tap water. Most of the system is
of the 'once through' type, which means that the water is wasted through
the sewerage system after the heat has been extracted (at about 40°C).
Peak load requirements of the market in the nearest future amounts to
some 110 MW or 350 kg/s of hot water, which if oil fired, would require
some 15 metric tones (100 barrels) of fuel oil per hour.
THE DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM.
The distribution system of
Sudurnes Regional Heating extends to seven municipalities besides the Keflavik
Airport. The accumulated length of all pipelines is about 300
km. The hot water is piped only one way to the municipalities, but couple
with tour and retour on the airport. The main pipelines from the power
station at Svartsengi are laid out above ground and insulated with rock wool, protected with
aluminium foil, but all other pipes are
underground within the boundaries of the more densely populated areas
and are therefore not obstructive to traffic or environmental interests.
The water is distributed from the power station at two temperature
values. Water that goes to Grindavik is 83°C, and there it is assumed
that the water reaches the consumer at 80°C. The hot water that is sent
to the municipalities on the north side of the peninsula goes out at
105-120°C to the pumping station in Njardvik, where it is mixed with
retour water from the airport and then sent out at 80°C to the
consumers in the area. Generally it is assumed that the consumer does
not throw his water away warmer than 40°C when it goes into the
sewerage system and finally into the ocean. Thus it is evident, that
water pumped from the Svartsengi area is considerable, or could be
close to 1200 tones/hour, but it is assumed that the water in the annual
precipitation on six miles square is sufficient for the total demand.
The high pressure steam is
used to generate electricity by means of steam turbines. Today three
such are in operation and produce a power of 8 MW. In this way the power
station is able to produce a considerable output of electrical
energy. The annual operating time of the turbines can easily be
7000-8000 hours. The total production was close to 62 GWh during the
THE THERAPUTIC PROPERTIES OF THE
When all practical
extraction of the heat has occurred by heat exchange, the brine is let
out into the surrounding lava field at 70°C where it accumulates in the
'Blue Lagoon'. In the year 1981 some psoriasis patients made experiments
with bathing in the lagoon and the baths seemed to give at least
temporary cure, which is in accordance with a known fact from other
places, that sulphur rich water has curing effects on psoriasis,
rheumatism, sciatica, eczema etc. The curing effect on psoriasis already
obtained, has led to the road to further
investigations and experiments with bating of patients in the lagoon.
The results of these experiments
were consistent with the first results. There
doubt, and a clinic was built at Svartsengi
after the opeing of the new facilities in 1999.
During the years the number of visitors to the lagoon has steadily
BLUE LAGOON was created unintentionally by the
condense outlet water from the power station in Svartsengi. The water
was supposed to disappear into the permeable lava field. It became
the most frequented tourist attraction of the country. One of the series
of Good Morning America" was shot there and broadcasted all over
the world. Soon after people started bathing in the lagoon the healing
properties of the brine were discovered by those, who suffer from skin
diseases, such as psoriasis. Since then an increasing number of patients
from all over the world has enjoyed the relief the chemical composition
of the water. Native patients, who need treatments at the Blue Lagoon,
are covered by their social insurance, which means that the authorities
have acknowledged the results of the chemical analysis of the water
carried out in the nineties. In 1999 new facilities were opened for
visitors and a man made lagoon with constant renewal of the warm water was created.
The new facilities offer a café and a restaurant, and
Hotel Northern Lights with a restaurant
located near the new Blue Lagoon. The distance from the capital is about 48
The geological exhibition,
was moved to
The Salt Fish Museum in town Grindavik in 2011.