The area under discussion lies along the ancient Sprengisandur highland route, one of Iceland’s most popular highland destinations and is therefore of considerable importance to the tourist industry. Ideas for a 35 MW hydroelectric plant in the area would entail the construction of 60 km power lines, which would completely alter the area’s appeal.
Skrokkalda Power Plant
- Skrokkalda Power Plant
Hágöngur and Skrokkalda
Dam construction began in the Hágöngur area in 1998 to create a reservoir for power plants in the Ţjórsá and Tungnaá area. 37 km˛ of beautiful scenery, including geothermally active areas, were thus submerged. A trail was also laid in the Sveđjuhraun lava fields and a deep borehole was drilled for research purposes in connection with a proposed geothermal power plant.
The area is located near the very heart of the Iceland highlands, and large-scale construction of power plants, roads, power lines and pipes would deal a heavy blow to the wide highland expanses of central Iceland. Despite the construction of the Hágöngur dam and the damage caused to the geothermal area with the creation of the reservoir, the visual impact of these structures has remained minimal so far. One contributing factor is that no new road was laid from the Sprengisandur route to the dam, as had originally been planned. An old trail was used instead.
Just like what happened with the creation of Hálslón, Ufsarlón and Kelduárlón reservoirs, power plant construction at Hágöngur and Skrokkalda would further constrict Vatnajökull National Park and diminish its value. If the national park had been founded before the creation of the Hágöngulón reservoir, the park‘s borders would naturally have lain west of Hágöngur.
The proposed Skrokkalda Power Plant and Hágöngur Power Plant are examples of power projects that would corrupt extensive and valuable highland expanses west of the Vatnajökull ice cap, regardless of whether one or both proposals become reality. Power plant construction would permanently ruin the area east of Hágöngur. Not only is the Hágöngur area located right on the tectonic plate boundary, but also in the immediate vicinity of the hot spot that lies under Iceland – one of the most volcanically active hot spots on Earth. Conserving the area is therefore of great significance.
The sandbanks of the river Kaldakvísl are signs of glacial activity that are now under water in Hágöngulón reservoir. The rivers Kaldakvísl and Sveđja both flow into the man-made Hágöngulón reservoir.
The rhyolite formations called North and South Hágöngur rise from layers of tuff and lava formed in the last phase of the ice age, i.e. the modern era.
A 35 MW hydroelectric power plant is planned in the area, with a 9 km, inclined tunnel channeling dammed water from Hágöngulón reservoir to an underground power station to the west at Skrokkalda. A high-voltage power line would connect the power plant to the national grid, probably at Vatnsfellsvirkjun Power Plant, 60 km away. The visual impact such a long power line would have on scenery and the tourist industry remains uncertain, and the laying of power lines in the Iceland highlands has so far not been factored into assessments of the viability of the proposal. The proposed Skrokkalda Power Plant would only have an output of 35 MW – an insignificant figure in the country‘s power production. However, harnessing this energy would entail over 60 km of power lines, some near the Sprengisander highland route and south to Vatnsfell mountain. The construction of such lines would furthermore entail road construction and have a substantial visual impact, ruining the overall appearance of the Iceland highlands.
Graphics © Sóley Stefánsdóttir