Icelandic energy company HS Orka has begun clearing drilling lots by the Eldvörp crater row on the Reykjanes peninsula. Five total lots are planned in the area. Each will require clearing 5,000 square metres (54,000 square feet) of lava formed during the 13th century. The project is being carried out to provide additional energy to the area’s growing population.
Eldvörp is a 10 km (6.2 mi) row of scoria and spatter cones located on the Reykjanes peninsula and its surrounding lava, covering an area of 20 square km (7.7 square mi). It was formed during a volcano-tectonic episode between 1210 and 1240 called the Reykjanes Fires. Pictures of the construction shared by Ellert Grétarsson on his Facebook page sparked widespread debate on the project.
The construction was discussed on RÚV show Kastljós last night. Conservationist Ómar Ragnarsson stated Eldvörp is a type of crater row unique to Iceland and otherwise is only found underwater. “Therefore one must proceed carefully in turning this area into an industrial area.” Ómar also points out the area is connected to Svartsengi geothermal zone, which provides Reykjanes with power. “By going into this crater row and pumping up energy it is just speeding up the inevitable end of the other. The energy will dry up.” Ómar calls the project “ruthless exploitation,” comparing it to the “short-lived warmth of pissing in your own shoe.”
The land around Eldvörp belongs to the nearby town of Grindavík. Ármann Halldórsson is head of the town’s environmental and planning department and appeared on Kastljós alongside Omar. Ármann says the construction has been in development for seven years and all environmental factors have been evaluated. “Eldvörp are part of the framework plan which parliament has approved,” he stated. “I don’t know how we are going to get the energy without these drill holes. It is technically not possible.” Ármann states the town of Grindavík has gone to great lengths in order to reduce the environmental impact of the drilling, both changing the location and reducing the size of drilling areas. “It’s a shame to see the lava go but that’s what has to be done to pump out the energy.”
Ásgeir Margeirsson, CEO of HS Orka, the energy company behind the project, says whether the construction is too close to the craters is a matter of opinion. “Our role is to meet the needs of society, with energy production, not only electricity, but also fresh water, drinking water, along with hot water and heating.” Ásgeir says the construction should be looked at in context. All relevant licenses have been granted for the project and production of hot water needs to increase for the residents of the peninsula. “This is the most likely the most suitable place for this. That isn’t to say that a power plant will be built in Eldvörp. It’s possible to divert the geothermal water a relatively long distance from the crater row, for example to [nearby power plant] Svartsengi or even to the sea and produce the energy there.”