Did you know… that Reykjavík is a city of geothermal energy?

Did you know that the city of Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland, is widely recognized for its geothermal energy? Many first think of the word ‘ice’ when hearing Iceland, but surprisingly Iceland is also known for its use of Earth’s heat. Due to its geological location directly on the mid-Atlantic ridge, it is constantly supplied by an enormous amount of underground magmatic and geothermal heat. The literal translation of Reykjavík is “steamy bay” that comes from the steam discharge associated with natural geothermal activity.

Aware of the underground heat available, Icelanders have learned to adapt to their environment. Since the arrival of the first Scandinavian settlers in the late 800s, Icelanders have utilized geothermal sources for bathing and cooking. One of their popular traditional foods, Hverabrauð, is a bread loaf cooked in the steam from a geyser for 24 hours. Up into the early part of the 20th century, coal was the main source of energy and air pollution was a serious problem. To address this, the first geothermal pipelines were installed in 1934, and since then Reykjavík has been continuously expanding geothermal utilization. Reykjavík now has the largest district heating system in the world (700 MWthermal), which is run by Orkuveita, and more than 60 million cubic meters of hot water flow through the distribution system. Hot water supply comes from low temperature geothermal areas around Reykjavik and from high temperature geothermal fields in the Hengill area to the east of the city. These hotter resources are mainly used to generate electricity, but a significant amount of heat also supplies the district heating scheme. The combination of geothermal fields and hydroelectric dams means that more than 99% of all the electricity used in Iceland comes from renewable sources.