Iceland may be tiny, but what it lacks in land mass, it makes up for, in a gigantic way, when it comes to the field of renewable energy. This is might seem a little different from what I normally write about but stick with me. I think that a redesign of our energy grid using Iceland as a roadmap could be just what the country and the world needs.
Thanks to forward thinking, individuals and abundant access to raw materials, the country of Iceland has managed to generate all of its electricity from renewable resources; mostly hydroelectric and some geothermal. Equally remarkable is the fact that Iceland uses geothermal energy to provide almost 90% of its heating needs as a country. They are able to do this because they have remarkably high annual amounts of precipitation, which plainly means: there’s lots of water around to use for hydroelectric power. Iceland also sits upon a plethora of volcanic activity. The underground and underwater volcanic activity is used to generate geothermal power, which in turn is used to for some electricity needs and the majority of the country’s heating needs. Imagine next time reaching for your thermostat to crank it up a bit, knowing that a volcano is allowing you to do so!
Since they use geothermal energy to heat their homes and hydroelectric power for all there other electricity needs, pretty much the only thing they need oil for is transportation quite an advantage in today’s world. Icelanders are now turning this abundance of natural resources into an economy booster by proposing the largest underwater pipeline in the world, which would allow Iceland to sell some of its spare hydroelectric power to its neighbors such as the UK. Power that is cheap also attracts manufacturers interested in using that cheap power for production of their goods. That is why Iceland is the leader in aluminum smelting, simply because aluminum smelting industries realize that it is so much cheaper to do business in Iceland.
Certainly other countries can take a page from Iceland’s book when it comes to energy production. It’s clean, relatively easy to produce, and leads to potential self-reliance: Imagine the benefits for the people of the world if we could eliminate this fossil fuel conundrum. Not to mention the boosts to the respective economies by creating a market where the best producers of this new energy are rewarded by being able to export their power on the open market, just like is done with oil, only this resource is cleaner, cheaper and more plentiful. Imagine the job creation for countries everywhere in the form of increased manufactures attracted by low cost power!
This energy, it’s not perfect: It can be costly to produce until the R&D catches up, it can be bad for the environment by destroying natural habitats. One can make the argument that increased manufacturing can lead to more co2 emissions. There are pretty good answers for most of the aforementioned drawbacks: Storing the co2 waste is quicker than normal co2 waste disposal methods, with virtually no chance for leakage, through the use of natural basalt based storage.
The costs can be justified because it provides cheap power for consumer which is stable, not dependent on fossil fuel fluctuation, and clean. In fact it could be used to create a whole new green consumer goods industry! Even the power plants are apparently very aesthetically pleasing too. Iceland is definitely ahead of the game when it comes to forward thinking, renewable energy opportunities.