All Things Watery
Geothermal Power, Hot Rivers, Geysers, and Waterfalls
Saturday, July 7th
You might ask, "what's up with the watery title? Did you have a rainy day?". The answer is both no... and yes. We did have a rather rainy start to Saturday, but the title doesn't refer to that. Rather, our Saturday was filled with an itinerary whose major attractions were in some way associated with water - hot water, flowing water, shooting water, ... well, you get the idea.
Now that Roland had joined us, we were free to start exploring Iceland more broadly. The plan was to head east, past Reykjavik, where we had identified four interesting and varied places for us to visit, and as it so happened, they were all tied in some way to water.
We said goodbye to the Alex Campground and headed east towards Reykjavik under a very grey sky. It was intermittently drizzly, and we couldn't see much of the surrounding terrain. Fortunately, our first objective did not involve us having to spend any time outside, for we were headed to one of Iceland's geothermal power plants. Several in our group wanted to get a closer look at this interesting form of energy production.
Sitting conveniently along Iceland's main ring road about 30 minutes east of Reykjavik, the Hellisheiði plant is a showcase of modern geothermal energy production. It is the largest geothermal power plant in Iceland, and is the world's second largest. Plans are to increase its power production to 400 Megawatts, which would make it the world's largest.
In addition to being Iceland's biggest geothermal plant, Hellisheiði is also a modern, attractive, state-of-the-art sort of place. This was immediately evident as we drove up to the plant, with a pointy steel and glass entranceway and atrium to welcome visitors. From behind the plant rose billowing clouds of hot steam.
Inside, the main atrium of the building is quite attractive, with a large wood-surfaced staircase that doubles as auditorium seats.
Once inside, we paid a modest fee (700 ISK) to be given a short tour by a young guide. This included a short video outlining the basic operation of a geothermal plant, along with a number of interesting geothermally-related trivia. Like, for example, that virtually all of Iceland's population gets its hot water from these geothermal sources. Or how many of Reykjavik's parking lots and streets have snow-melting geothermal water pipes embedded within them.
After the presentation, we wandered around the visitor-accessible areas of the plant, observing the various components, both inside and outside.