Visiting the world’s smartest energy users

Icelanders have to stay wrapped up all year round

Icelanders have to stay wrapped up all year round

You may have noticed that we’ve been a bit quiet here on the blog, and that’s because I’ve been away on holiday in Iceland. This in itself isn’t that relevant to Be Energy Smart until you realise that Iceland may well be the greenest country on the planet. Blessed with abundant geothermal resources thanks to it’s hundreds of dormant and active volcanoes, Icelanders stay warm and powered whilst remaining brilliantly in harmony with nature. They certainly need the warmth – right now, in the height of their summer, Icelanders experience a chilly average temperature of 10 degrees Celsius!

Iceland's 'Pearl' sits atop tanks that store geothermally heated water

Iceland’s ‘Pearl’ sits atop tanks that store 24 million litres of geothermally heated water

We started our journey in the capital Reykjavik, where one of its most striking landmarks is The Pearl, a dome that sits atop six huge tanks that store geothermally heated water. This water heated deep in the ground, along with Iceland’s hydroelectric plants, supplies 85% of Iceland’s heating and electricity demand. The other 15% is non-renewable, not because the resource isn’t there but because it is attributable to the portion of the country’s transport fuel that is still sourced from fossil fuels. Much of Iceland’s transport is ‘green’ – they’re one of the few countries that can efficiently supply hydrogen for cars at petrol stations, and we saw a couple of oddly quiet electric motorbikes on the road too.

Typical Icelandic homes are made of prefab material or sheet metal

Typical Icelandic homes are made of insulated prefab material and green roofs are also popular

Iceland’s houses are also primed to make the most out of their heating resources. For some reason – maybe the lack of clay in their soil – Iceland’s housing stock is mainly made up of prefabricated material and sheet metal, which lends itself really well to having insulation board incorporated at the build stage or later. This also means that Icelanders can paint their houses whatever colour they like, and the result is very pretty, with pastel coloured houses lining the coast. We also saw an abundance of green roofs – Icelanders have covered their roofs in turf for over a hundred years, as it’s great insulation, and it looks great too.

Glacial waterfalls can be used to drive generators

Glacial waterfalls can be used to drive generators

On day two of our trip we travelled to Isafjordur, a region to the North West, with, you’ve guessed it, lot of fjords! The landscape in the North is very volcanic, with snowcaps on the mountains – these are remnants of the huge glaciers that form in the winter. As the glaciers melt in the summer, huge streams of water run down the dormant volcanoes and form large waterfalls – these are great for powering hydroelectric plants and small domestic generators, and many do.

Our last day in Iceland saw us travelling to Akureyri, where our tourguide informed us that Iceland is looking to diversify it’s renewable energy sources further to wind as there’s plenty of it around – however, they’ve found that it is in fact, too windy for turbines! If you feel a bit jealous of this clear overabundance of renewable resources, there’s good news – Iceland have been in talks with the UK about running cabling between the two countries to allow them to sell us their surplus green electricity, which may be at substantially lower prices than what we’re used to. Fingers crossed! In the meantime, why not find out more about using the heat in the ground to heat your home on our Ground Source Heat Pump page? Or if you’re inspired to try out a green roof in your home you can find more information on this on our sister website DIY Doctor!


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