Iceland is well-known for its exemplary utilization of geothermal resources, having today over 90% of households heated up via utilization of geothermal resources.
What is less known to the general public is the history and the synergies that allowed this to happen. The journey started some 80 years ago in the 1930’s, when visionaries had the idea to use the resources below their feet for space heating in Reykjavík. It did not go without debate and started slowly, house by house, street by street. It was not until the 1960’s that development accelerated when various legislative tools were put into place and the system was enhanced. By then, Icelanders had learned many lessons about geothermal district heating from the Reykjavik system and were able to transfer their knowledge and experience to other parts of the country.
This brings us to an event that took place in the early 1970’s with a volcanic eruption in the Westman Islands. The Island did not have any specific geothermal resources available for direct use but once the eruption had settled, the hot lava was used as a heat exchanger for a new local district heating taking benefits of the knowledge and experience accumulated over the years from the Reykjavík geothermal district heating system. 20 years later, when the heat stored in the lava was exhausted, the local utility sought other sources of energy such as waste energy from fish industry combined with energy from waste incineration, an electrical boiler and now with prospects of a heat pump, showing how flexible such a system can be in the long term.