Innovation on Earth

Global Citizenship Resources for Innovation Academy and Beyond

Power Underground Iceland

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 5.56.44 PMIt’s not always just dirt under your feet! Here, in Iceland, people are walking around with lots of power in the ground below. That’s because this area has a lot of volcanic activity. It makes certain places in the earth very hot, and sometimes there are even boiling mud pots (called “solfataras”) or little fizzing streaks of steam (called “fumaroles”). The sulfur in the earth is very smelly, almost like rotten eggs, but it also produces beautiful colors. As you can see, I couldn’t put my camera down today!

Rain not OilThe heat underground is not only good for photography. It serves many other purposes. Most importantly, it produces geothermal energy. This means that people can literally convert the hot water underground into electricity. In Iceland, 99.98% of their electricity and heating comes from geothermal energy, while around the world, only 1.8% of the world’s energy is created this way. Most of the world’s electrical energy (68%) comes from non-renewable resources like coal, oil and gas. It’s really awesome that Iceland has this resource! We got to visit a geothermal power plant and learn about how they work this magic.

Check out all the pipes that run out of the power plant! You can see a big patch of snow in this photo also, proving that even though it is hot underground, it is pretty cold outside. We are very close to the Arctic Circle up here! I bought an extra jacket today because it was below 40 degrees Fahrenheit!

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 6.48.10 PM

Icelandic people use the hot earth in all sorts of other creative ways. For instance, check out this photo below of a local bakery. See where the steam is coming out in the front of the photo? They put the dough underground overnight, and in the morning, they come retrieve the hot loaf of bread. In the back, you can see that the water is full of minerals like sulfur and silica because of the beautiful light blue color.

Bakery

The Local Bakery — cooking bread underground

The hot earth is also great for bathing. If you’ve been reading my blog carefully, you might remember that I went in the onsen (hot spring baths) at Lake Akan in Japan (or go back and check it out here). This was pretty different. While they were both natural hot springs, the Japanese version was much more like a spa with lots of hot tubs that were marked with different temperatures. Hhot springsere, the water was smelly like sulfer, bright blue, and more like a big pool. As we swam around, we could feel streams of hot water coming in different places. Some spots were much hotter than others, and sometimes streams of water made us jump back away from a burning hot spot. It was fresh water, not salt, and the chemicals are supposed to be very good for your skin. My skin did feel very silky and fresh afterwards!

Me in Hot Springs

It’s funny that a place like ICE-land is so full of HOT land, isn’t it? Maybe they should rename this country!

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6 thoughts on “Power Underground Iceland

  1. Anna S. on said:

    Haha, I can just imagine if people decided to change Iceland to Hotland. 😉
    Iceland is such a resourceful country!!!! 😀
    How does the power plant work? Was the temperature difference really dramatic when you went from cold weather to hot water?

  2. Pingback: The Slow and Sudden Movements of Iceland | Innovation on Earth

  3. I love hot water so I bet I would like to swim in the water. It is so cool that bury their bread and let it bake underground over night. Unfortunately I would not like to eat the bread if it was baked underground because of dirt. There is a picture of you next to a pile of rocks. Why are the rocks smoking? Is it like a mini volcano that erupts steam?

    • The bread is wrapped up when underground, so no dirt gets in. It’s yummy! And the smoking rocks were an attempt to harness the geothermal energy in a different way. It is sort of like a mini volcano, yes. But it’s just going all the time, because there’s so much heat building up in the space underground.

  4. Morgan R on said:

    I found the water the most interesting. I think it’s really cool that water was hotter in some places due to how hot the earth is. I think that them heating the dough underground is really cool and different from a lot of places.

  5. J.T. S on said:

    I like swimming in warm water. The warmest water I swam in was in the Philippines . I would like to try baking bread underground.

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