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Iceland: Geothermal Pioneers Go Commercial

Iceland already leads the world in renewable energy use, and now it’s hoping that new geothermal and hydroelectric projects will render it the first country in the world to be run completely on clean power.

It may now just be on track to meet that goal with the first-ever commercial application of green fuel.

Aside from oil used for transportation, Iceland  powers itself entirely from sustainable, renewable energy sources, with geothermal steam heating most buildings and generating approximately one-quarter of the country’s electricity—most of the rest coming from hydro power.

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Using geothermal electricity and flue gas from the Svartsengi power plant, clean-tech venture Carbon Recycling International (CRI) fuses waste CO2 with hydrogen split from water to create renewable methanol.

While others elsewhere are working on similar efforts to make green fuel from repurposed CO2, only CRI has been able to make a commercial go of it—largely because of Iceland’s abundant supply of low-cost, earth-generated power.

The company recently began exporting the product to the Netherlands, where it is blended into gasoline.

Now these pioneers of harnessing geothermal heat are looking further afield, and deeper into Europe. One of the most unique projects Iceland’s experts are hoping to see through is a 1,000-kilometer undersea cable carrying renewably generated electricity to Europe. This could bring renewably-generated electricity to the UK, for instance, at much lower costs than offshore wind.

The project is worth an estimated $6.4 billion, including the related generation and onshore transmission investments. It could be operational—if all goes as planned—by 2022.

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The interconnector would allow Iceland utilities to sell green power at premium prices to the UK and elsewhere in the European Union where there are plenty of stiff mandates for clean power to fill. It would be part of the Europe-wide super-grid, which aims to connect renewable energy sources and meet clean energy and emission reduction targets.

This interconnector would also allow for excess wind power to pump water into storage lakes, and when electricity is needed, the water would be released and flow through turbines.

Despite the massive cost of this project, the interconnectors are the cheapest method to support wind intermittency without building a power plant.

By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com



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