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The Hellisheidavirkjun Geothermal Power Plant otherwise known as The Geothermal Energy Exhibition at Hellisheiđi Power Plant
When we spent our few days in Iceland in February 2013 we decided to book a few trips an activities as we wanted to see and do as much as possible an knew we only had a few days. We booked the ‘Golden Circle’ Day trip with Grayline tours and this was our first stop on the trip.
I was pleased that this visit was included as I had been interested in seeing their geothermal energy creation and learning about how self sufficient and ‘green’ Iceland was in their energy production. The Geothermal plant is only about 20 min. drive from Reykjavík on Route 1 towards Hveragerdi and is a far more attractive building than I had anticipated. The Hellisheiđi Power Station is the second largest geothermal power station in the world, and the largest in Iceland and is found in Hengill, in southwest Iceland not far from the capital.
BENEFITS OF LIVING ON VOLCANOES No the down side is these do erupt from time to time causing untold damage and as we discovered a few years ago a volcano erupting in Iceland can have repercussions world wide with airlines grounded all around the world. There are however many benefits; these include the five major geothermal power plants, which produce well over 26.2%( these are figures from 2010) of the nation's energy. Geothermal heating however provides the heating and hot water to about 87% of all buildings in Iceland. They are doubly fortunate as 73.8% of the nation’s electricity is generated by hydro power, and only the tiny amount of 0.1% from fossil fuels. An amazing 100 percent of electricity production in Iceland comes from renewable energy , 70 percent from hydropower and 30 percent from geothermal power.
We were told that the Icelandic people have used the hot springs for bathing both themselves an washing clothes for centuries but the first use of geothermal energy for heating did not come until 1907. An enterprising farmer took a concrete pipe from a hot spring that led steam into his house. By 1930 a rather larger pipeline was constructed to bring heat from a hot spring 3 km into Reykjavik in order to heat a hospital, some houses and two schools initially. Then in 1943 an 18 km pipeline ran through the city of Reykjavík and by 1945 it was connected to over 2,850 homes. Today 89% of homes in the whole island are heated in this way.
VISITING THE EXHIBITION The cost of the exhibition was not inclue in the Goilden Circle tour an if you didn’t want to see the exhibition you could look around the shop and enjoy a coffee an snack in that same reception area. It was not that expensive and having come here we thought we may as well have a look. We were actually given a bit of a guided tour which was handy as time was uite limited. I think we were only here for about 40 minutes.
The Exhibition is open daily from 09:00-17:00. Admission was 800 ISK ( about Ł 4.75) - per person. Now under 16s are free but strangely not if they are in organised groups. There is however a special rate for groups of 10 people or more.
We drove across a bare rather lunar pare landscape to the amazing modern buiding behind which we could see clouds of stem rising. The building didn’t look like any power plant I had ever seen before a it was sleek modern and lot of glass everywhere. It was designed to represent the two tectonic plates which are clearly visible above ground in Iceland and it I because of the closeness to the surface that all this geothermal activity is so visible and also able to be harnessed almost underneath where we were being shown around.
As we entered the sleek modern design continued and indeed throughout the entire exhibition area everything was spotlessly clean, bright, airy and lots of glass including the stairs and banisters were all rather unnervingly open feeling and side banister of glass.
SPEEDY LOOK AROUND The guide was excellent and quickly went through some intereting facts before pointing us in the direction of a short film explaining about geothermal power. She pointed out the various hand on activities, the art work and the earthquake machine a well. The film I available in a number of different languages including Icelandic, English, German, French, Spanish, Russian, Italian, Chinese and Japanese!
The film was excellent, simple enough for most people to grasp the concept and visually dramatic too. The paintings around the exhibition were of local scenes from local artist and many lovely photographs too. The earthquake simulator allowed you to experience the power of the larger earthquakes that have occurred in Iceland over the years and was a rather odd sensation and I was glad it was only a simulator.
I personally was most impressed when the guide took u to a small area that was a bit like a glass elevator and shut the door between us and the main exhibition area before opening the glass windows over the actual machines of the power plant. It was so quiet and so clean, not at all noisy and clanking with grease and oil that you might expect from a large power station.
I did feel a bit rushed when we visited and would have lied about twenty minutes longer to be able to have a more relaxed loo around as we were very conscious that we didn’t want to hold up the tour. The chance to have a cup of coffee after the loo around would have been nice but I am so glad we did get the opportunity to have the tour and visit the exhibition as it was pretty darned impressive. That said I am not sure I would want to live quite so close to so much earth activity despite the benefits of cleaner, cheaper heating and electricity.'