Iceland Series: Geothermal dynamics

 

It’s impressive that Iceland generates 100% of its electricity using renewable energy.  75% is derived by hydro power, and 25% is geothermal. The latter capacity grew to 951 megawatts last year from 65 megawatts in 2000, (according to data compiled by Bloomberg news).  It also provides 87% of it’s demands for hot water and heating using geothermal energy.    It’s dynamic, this belching landscape steaming with fumeroles venting sulpherous gas.  While hot springs are dotted all over and evil-smelling mud pools hubble and bubble.

It’s fascinating to discover that in geological terms Iceland as a landmass is considered young – a mere 20 million years in the making. But, sitting on a geologic hot spot on the mid-Atlantic ridge where the American and Eurasian tectonic plates are gradually drifting apart, has catastrophic effect.  The tear through the crust is allowing magma to well upwards towards the surface, perculating, waiting for an opportunity to vent.  One can’t help but feel that Iceland is at the mercy of some violent tempestous beast, a fiery dragon living beneath a white counterpane of ice.

For the population, (320,000) the threat of living with such natural disaster must be quite unnerving.  Yet after the economic collapse of 2008 and the Eyjafjallajökull volcano eruption in 2010, there appears to be a wry stocism judging from this slogan ” Don’t mess with us, we may not have the cash, but we have the ash”.

The effect on the land is evident in the form of lava fields, basaltic rock, rhyolite or hyaloclastite formations of extraordinarily odd shapes.   A whole different ecosystem exists specific to the lava, and hotsprings.  The green algae, Cyanidum cadarium grows at a scalding temperature between 40 – 50°C and creates bright green streaks in steam vents.  The ancient bacteria, Archaea is apparently the most common, and is considered to be one of five of the earth’s oldest organisms.  Nature rules with an upper hand in this land.

 

 

 

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