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Iceland volcano erupts… and all I want to know is…?

March 21, 2010
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Geothermal Plant in Iceland

How are their geothermal power plants?

OMG I am such a nerd! Haha but anyway, just thought I’d share this piece of news with you! Originally published at StraitsTimes.com

REYKJAVIK – A VOLCANO in the area of the Eyjafallajoekull glacier in southern Iceland erupted early on Sunday, forcing more 500 people in its vicinity to evacuate their homes, authorities said.

‘We estimate that no one is in danger in the area but we have started an evacuation plan and between 500 and 600 people are being evacuated’, Mr Sigurgeir Gudmundsson of the Icelandic civil protections department told AFP.

Public broadcaster RUV reported that the eruption had started shortly after midnight and that the area’s main road had been closed.

A volcano in the area of the Eyjafjallajoekull glacier last erupted in 1821 and 1823.

I also found a fairly recent post about Iceland’s Geothermal Bailout and here’s an excerpt:

Iceland’s geological evolution makes it especially well suited to harvesting geothermal energy. The island is basically one big volcano, formed over millions of years as molten rock bubbled up from the seafloor. The porous rock under its treeless plains sponges up hundreds of inches of rain every year and heats it belowground. Using this energy is simply a matter of digging a well, drawing the hot fluid to the surface, and sticking a power plant on top. Then, as power plants go, it’s business as usual: Steam spins a turbine that drives a generator, and electricity comes out the other end. More than 50 countries use geothermal power; pretty much anywhere magma and water are within a few miles of the surface is fair game. Iceland ranks 14th in the world for geothermal resources but is the highest per-capita producer of geothermal power. It’s committed to getting clean power out of the ground.

And commitment is what the rocky country needs right now. Last fall, Iceland entered a deep economic recession following a financial meltdown. Now, Iceland’s economy is down to fishing, metals and its clean, limitless supply of geothermal energy. It’s betting heavily on that energy, hoping to someday offload excess electricity to Europe through undersea cables, and Fridleifsson’s project is the all-in wager of the game. Many countries dabble in green energy — a solar plant here, a wind farm there — as they try to wean themselves off oil and coal. Iceland, on the other hand, has been making zero-emissions power a reality since the oil shock of the 1970s, when its progressive inhabitants realized that their dependence on imported energy was an economic vulnerability. Fridleifsson’s project, once just a scientific experiment, is the most recent expression of that ethos. If the gamble pays off, it could not only catapult Iceland out of debt but revolutionize renewable-energy efforts around the world.

The post even goes into detail about how supercritical water is used to generate electricity. I’m no scientist so I’ll let the post speak for itself:

Iceland turns geothermal energy into electricity in two ways: Venting 600°F steam from a mile underground through a turbine, and a more energetic method that pulls 390° water from deep wells and heats surface water, making steam to drive turbines. Harnessing a natural supply of supercritical water — water that’s three times as hot and under enormous pressure — and turning it into electricity would be like switching from diesel to jet fuel. “If we succeed, we expect to increase power output by 5 to 10 times [above what a typical well can produce],” Fridleifsson says.

So well, I’m just going to wait for news if any of their plants suffered any damage. But I really hope not. This is really Geography textbook stuff but in a more practical sense, I think that Iceland’s done a fantastic job over the years raising the awareness about the use and benefits of geothermal energy.  🙂

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 21, 2010 2:23 pm

    Another question is will the eruption effect climate change by masking warming this summer? We not a hot summer here is the U.S. to get an energy bill passed before the Nov. elections when Republicans will likely make gains.

    “”This was a rather small and peaceful eruption but we are concerned that it could trigger an eruption at the nearby Katla volcano, a vicious volcano that could cause both local and global damage,” said Pall Einarsson, a geophysicist at the University of Iceland’s Institute of Earth Science.”

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100321/ap_on_sc/eu_iceland_volcano

  2. Mellow permalink*
    March 21, 2010 3:00 pm

    Thanks Mike. You brought up a good point there. Iceland is relatively near to the U.S. so the eruption might affect the composition of particles in the air and cloud formation in the States but I guess time will tell. I doubt the volcanic eruption is big enough to cause that much change, and also wind patterns play a big role in this too. Also, because the U.S. is so big, it is likely that the Republicans will use the varying climate across the States as a justification since a “hot” summer isn’t likely to be felt across all states. The continental/maritime effect can cause variations.

    Thanks for your comment! 🙂

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