With minor adjustments to the classic Golden Circle tour, then we can concentrate on Geothermal Energy and learn more about this interesting energy source in Iceland. And at the same time experiencing the impressive natural attractions inside the “Golden circle”.
Geothermal Energy has been used in areas with obvious surface manifestations of activity close to tectonic boundaries in the world. Due to the location of Iceland in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, then the country has an abundance of geothermal energy, which can be seen and witnessed during the golden circle tour. We will visit the newest geothermal power plant in Hellisheidi and learn how it works. We will see “Direct use” of geothermal in the area means space and district heating (used to heat up our geothermal swimming pools), greenhouse heating and aquaculture. We will therefore see how the geothermal energy is used in horticultural activity, and we will bath and swim (unless not wanted) in geothermal pools. Geothermal surface features, the famous hot spring area Geysir will be visited where we will see the bubbling geothermal hot springs and Strokkur who spouts water 30 meters (100ft) into the air every 5 to 10-minute interval.
You can choose two options and bath in geothermal water, either the Secret Lagoon at Flúdir or at the Fontana geothermal bath in Laugarvatn. The tour ends at the historic site Thingvellir national park, where we will wrap up the understanding of the geothermal activity in Iceland. Here you can see how the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet, but they are very much visible in Thingvellir. You will clearly see how the mid-Atlantic rift is drifting apart at the rate of 2 centimeters every year.
Even though Icelanders claim to be a pioneer in utilizing geothermal for space heating, then historically this can be dated back to the first century in the city of Pompeii in Italy. Our historic writer, politician and poet, Snorri Sturluson used geothermal bath in the 13th century, and it is claimed that he also used the hot water to heat up his turf house. Then the French people in the city of Chaudes-Aigues installed a district heating system in the 14th Century. Geothermal is an enormously interesting option which you will learn a lot about on this tour.
It can be stated that Icelanders are pioneers utilizing geothermal energy for space heating and bathing in hot natural pools and swimming pools.
What is “geothermal energy”?
Geothermal energy is thermal energy which is generated and stored within the Earth. In very basic terms, then the geothermal gradient highlights the increase in temperature per 100 m of depth – around 2-3 degrees Celsius. You might assume that the temperature will reach around 60° C (140¨F) at the depth of 2000 meters and around 90° C (194° F) at 3000-meter depth. This temperature trend continues a few thousand meters deeper. However, this is very different depending on where you are in the world. Iceland for example, is located in between two tectonic plates (North American and Eurasian). Where these tectonic plates meet, the heat of the earth can be found closer to the surface, and volcanic activity is common. This means we have an abundance of high temperature areas which can be found in a few places in Iceland, meaning that the temperature gradient is many times the average value. Below you see photos of geothermal power plants. In this Golden Circle tour we will have a view (or visit) to either Hellisheidar power plant (303 MWe and 200 MWth) or Nesjavallar power plant (120 MWe and 300 MWth)