As much as we love solar energy, the unfortunate truth is not everyone in the world can feasibly rely 100% on the nurturing rays of the sun to power their homes. That’s why we’re also endorsing VOLCANO energy, better known as geothermal energy, as one of the next best alternatives.
Laugh all you want, but it’s a prospect that the energy-starved United Kingdom is taking very, very seriously. In fact, the UK and Iceland have been in talks since 2012 to discuss the possibility of connecting a massive underwater cable to transport massive amounts of clean, geothermal energy.
The proposed cable would need to be between 1,000 and 1,500 km long and submerged at a depth of 1,000 m. British and Icelandic Prime Ministers David Cameron and Sigmundur Davíð discussed forming a joint task force the week to examine the feasibility of such a project and report back in six months.
“We don’t want to take any chances in this regard, in particular, the prices for households, and regarding the potential for new investment, new jobs in Iceland and the utilization of renewable energy in Iceland,” the Icelandic PM said in an interview where he welcomed the possibility of such a venture. “However, I’ve always favored looking into things, finding facts, getting a better picture of what we’re dealing with.”
Lying along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, Iceland is one of the world’s youngest countries geologically. Because it falls on the boundary between two major tectonic plates (North American and Eurasian), Iceland is home to more than 200 volcanoes. Additionally the island nation contains at least 600 known hot springs.
Iceland is one of the few modern countries that is almost 100% reliant on renewable energy sources and, as a result, enjoys the cheapest electricity prices in Europe. Nearly 75% of the nation’s energy comes from hydroelectric plants that are powered by glacial meltwater. Geothermal energy makes up the remaining 25%, totalling roughly 665 MW in 2013.
Although the Icelandic energy industry produces nearly five times the demand created by the island nation’s 320,000+ inhabitants, about 70% of the total energy produced is consumed by energy-intensive aluminum plants.
Already the UK has several existing underwater cables to surrounding European countries, but the proposed Iceland project would easily be the largest ever constructed in the world. Each kilometer of cable would contain nearly 800 tonnes of copper.
Unfortunately, the project – if started immediately – wouldn’t be completed for another 7 to 10 years. Despite the ability to lay some 30 km of cable a day, the majority of this timeframe would be spent securing the international agreements for transporting the energy and preparing the onshore landing sites.
Here’s hoping the UK and Iceland can turn such an ambitious project into a renewable reality – especially since our solar brothers and sisters across the pond are still reeling from the recent subsidy cuts to green industries.
While the U.S. solar industry braces for a possibly expiring 30% federal investment tax credit, it’s comforting to note that geothermal, much like solar, has tremendous potential for supplying America’s clean energy needs.
At the end of 2013, the Geothermal Energy Association reports the U.S. geothermal industry reached 3,442 MW of installed capacity. Leading geothermal states like California, Nevada and Utah have between 50 – 60% of their estimated geothermal potential untapped.