The proposed Helmingur Power Plant would harnessing the flow of the river Jökulsá á Fjöllum, thus transforming the course of the river, submerging sites of cultural importance and endangering precious vegetation in the area. According to the Master Plan for Hydro and Geothermal Energy Resources, the river Jökulsá á Fjöllum is classified as being of the highest cultural and natural value.
Helmingur Power Plant
River Jökulsá á Fjöllum
- Helmingur Power Plant
River Jökulsá á Fjöllum
Two power proposals in the river Jökulsá á Fjöllum are currently under consideration. They are the Arnardalur Power Plant and the Helmingur Power Plant.
The river Jökulsá á Fjöllum is the longest as well as the greatest in waterflow of the rivers that run northward from the Vatnajökull ice cap. The area is noted for the great number of active volcanic systems found there, and is considered unique in the Iceland Highlands. The river runs through the Vatnajökull National Park, Jökulsárgljúfur canyon by the Askja volcano, the Herđubreiđ Nature Reserve, Hvannalindir springs, and wetlands at Öxarfjörđur, Kverkfjöll and the Ódáđahraun lava field.
The area is of great natural beauty. The river has carved out a layered canyon during successive glacial floodings, wide at the top, but growing ever narrower towards the bottom, with the river running through the narrowest, bottommost canyon. The floodings in the river weathered and wore down everything in their path, including a series of craters that have been transformed into the Hljóđaklettar cliffs, forming fantastical images of castles, lions and trolls.
The river‘s drainage basin remains almost untouched. The river follows its natural course, albeit with seasonal changes in waterflow, and carries sediment out to sea. Sandbanks erected at Kelduhverfi to prevent coastal erosion are the most significant human structures in the area. Two out of three major river systems on Earth have already been dammed, and their flow patterns disrupted. Outside of Iceland, only three large rivers in Europe remain completely undisturbed. Iceland can almost be said to be the only country in Europe where large or relatively large river systems remain undisturbed.
Icelandic poet and entrepreneur Einar Benediktsson tried to sell Dettifoss waterfall to foreign tycoons at the turn of the 19th century, but he greatly overestimated the height of the waterfall. There have since been several proposals for the harnessing of Jökulsá á Fjöllum, mostly envisaging the diversion of the river‘s flow eastward. This includes recent proposals for the Arnardalur and Helmingur Power Plants, but they have been classified as protected according to the Master Plan for Hydro and Geothermal Energy Resources.
The river Jökulsá á Fjöllum flows through important natural areas, amongst them the Vatnajökull National Park, Jökulsárgljúfur canyon by the Askja volcano, the Herđubreiđ Nature Reserve, Hvannalindir springs, and the wetlands at Öxarfjörđur and Kverkfjöll.
The proposal for the Helmingur Power Plant is classified as protected, but would entail damming the basic flow of the river Jökulsá á Fjöllum. Reservoirs would be created along the course of Jökulsá as well as that of the river Kreppa, and a 49 km diversion tunnel would be dug under the river Jökulsá á Dal to channel water to station facilities just south of Skriđuklaustur in Fljótsdalur valley.