Can Energy Production Have an Impact on a Country’s Wealth and Standard of Living?
The answer is a resounding yes, and this is most evident when you take a look at the country of Iceland. I recently traveled there and learned that Iceland is a world leader in the use of geothermal district heating. Geothermal is energy in the form of heat obtained from hot circulating ground water. After the second World War, Orkustofnun (the Icelandic national energy authority) carried out research and development, which has led to the use of geothermal resources for heating households. Today, nearly nine out of ten households are heated with geothermal energy. During the 20th century, Iceland went from one of Europe’s poorest countries, dependent on peat and imported coal for energy, to a country with a high standard of living where stationary energy is mostly derived from renewable resources.
Today, 99% of Iceland’s electricity is from renewable sources, 30% of which is geothermal (the rest is from dams—and there are a lot of them), according to Iceland’s National Energy Authority. When transportation, heating, and production of electricity are considered as a whole, geothermal provides half of all the primary energy used in Iceland.
Iceland’s beginning foray into geo-thermal energy development even created one of its most popular tourist destinations, the Blue Lagoon pictured below.
(Iceland’s world-famous Blue Lagoon geothermal spa was formed unintentionally, when discharge from the nearby Svartsengi geothermal power plant reacted with saline groundwater in the area to calcify the porous ground beneath the area where it now sits. The water in the lagoon averages 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) year-round. Modern-day geothermal plants in Iceland reinject their discharge deep below the surface rather than releasing it at ground level to avoid creating a second lagoon.)
Iceland is situated where the North American tectonic plate meets the European tectonic plate, and this geological location makes them ideal for harnessing the thermal power of the earth.
(The above picture is a walking path between North American and Europe. Touch the rocks on the left and you’re in North American, touch the rocks on the right and you’re in Europe.)
Not every country has the geologic benefits of Iceland, but geothermal energy can play an important role in US energy production.
Overall, Iceland’s clean energy advancements and investments have drastically improved their standard of living since WWII. The residents have inexpensive, clean energy and they love it. Even the Icelandic horses are smiling because of it.
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