Iceland Volcanoes Could Power British Homes
Icelandic volcanoes could soon power British homes if the government secures a new energy deal.
Energy minister Charles Hendry will visit Iceland in May to negotiate an agreement that would mean laying hundreds of miles of cables underwater to satisfy the U.K.’s energy needs.
The cables, known as interconnectors, would carry low-carbon energy harvested from Iceland’s geothermal sources such as volcanoes and geysers.
The plan could supply a third of the nation's average electricity demand.
Mr. Hendry told Sky News Online, “We are looking to a low-carbon economy. I think the best way is to get a number of different interconnectors first.”
The copper cables would need to be up to 1,500 kilometers (about 932 miles) long to reach Iceland—the longest in the world.
Each kilometer of wire contains 800 tons of copper, but 30 kilometers (19 miles) of it could be laid every day.
Mr. Hendry said Iceland’s geothermal energy prices would be negotiated on long-term contracts. “We want to give consumers a clearer and more predictable idea of what they will have to pay,” he told Sky News.
If agreed, Mr. Hendry said the project could be up and running by the late 2010s.
The project is part of the European Union’s pledge to have 20 percent of its energy come from renewable sources by 2020.
The EU planned a “supergrid” in 2010 that would harvest and distribute wind, wave, and solar power across Europe.
Head of climate change at Earthwatch, Dr. Dan Bebber, told Sky News Online, “Europe now has the opportunity to show the rest of the world that it is possible to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels.”
He added, “The sun doesn’t always shine, the wind turbines can stop moving but this can smooth out those fluctuations in power.”
Iceland is keen to export energy after suffering badly in the global financial crisis. All its major banks collapsed at the end of 2008, and it has been seeking ways to move its economy away from dependence on the financial sector and fishing.
Icelandic interconnectors have been discussed for decades but were deemed too expensive.
However, rising energy prices in Europe have now made them feasible.
Britain already has two international interconnectors, with France and the Netherlands.
Nine more are either in construction, in formal planning, or undergoing feasibility studies.
A link between the Republic of Ireland and Wales will open in autumn 2012.