Landsvirkjun has proposed the construction of a 57 MW power plant at Holt in the river Ţjórsá. The proposal entails the creation of a 5 km˛ reservoir and would mean the partial submersion of the island Árnes (which Árnessýsla county is named after). An 8-9 km stretch of the Ţjórsá riverbed would be left partially or totally dry, which would create a risk of erosion and, as a result thereof, dust pollution and sandstorms. In addition, the reservoir would affect the fields and pastures of neighboring farms.
Holt Power Plant
- Holt Power Plant
The River Ţjórsá
Landsvirkjun has proposed to construct three power plants in the river Ţjórsá. Originally, all electricity produced at these power plants was to be sold to Rio Tinto Alcan Iceland Ltd. for the projected extensions of the Straumsvík Aluminum Plant. In a referendum on the proposed extension in 2007, the citizens of Hafnarfjörđur township rejected the proposals, and since then, Landsvirkjun has tried to engage other possible buyers for this energy. One example is the proposed aluminum plant in Helgavík, but permission for its construction has as of yet not been granted. There is a further proposal for a river diversion – the Norđlingaalda diversion – 8 km downstream from the Ţjórsárver natural reserve, but this proposal has been classified protected. Nearby, in the river Tungnaá, proposals for the Búđarháls power plant have been given the green light and classified as exploitable.
The three proposed power plants in the lower reaches of the river Ţjórsá, namely Hvammur Power Plant, Holt Power Plant and Urriđafoss Power Plant, are currently all classified as awaiting further assessment according to the Master Plan for Hydro and Geothermal Energy Resources. In the initial phase of the Master Plan, all three were classified as exploitable, but in the spring of 2012 when the Master Plan was ratified by parliament, it was decided to reclassify the proposals as awaiting further assessment, and to have the matter looked into more closely before reaching a decision.
Landsvirkjun‘s plans for harnessing the river Ţjórsá have caused a great deal of division and disputes among the inhabitants of the river‘s surrounding areas. In some cases, entire families have become divided because of the issue, and the communal spirit in these communities has suffered.
Power plant construction would endanger the area‘s natural beauty and disrupt the river‘s harmonious environs.
Three waterfalls in the river would be destroyed, namely Búđi, Hestfoss and Urriđafoss. The waterfalls would be forever silenced, thus greatly altering the experience of visiting the area. Since time immemorial, people have listened to the sound of the river Ţjórsá, for example at Búđi waterfall and the Núpsflúđir rapids, to make weather predictions – and they continue to do so today.
Great disruption could also be caused to the river‘s unique ecosystem, and the risk of erosion and dust pollution would be greatly increased due to the river bed partially drying up from diminished water flow.
In addition, construction would take place near the country‘s most productive agricultural region and in the immediate vicinity of inhabited areas. Agricultural land would be lost to reservoirs, roads and other construction in relation to the power plants.
The Holt Power Plant and other proposed power plants in the river Ţjórsá would cause great variations in river flow. The maximum flow volume could be up to 10 times as great as the minimum. This would almost certainly greatly disrupt wildlife on the banks of the river.
Sandstorms will be frequent when the surface of the river is low. Along an 8-9 km stretch in Árnessýsla county, the river bed is expected to become mostly dry to completely dry.
Photo © Hlynur Stefánsson
The Holt Power Plant is to rise just above the Búđi waterfall. A dam will be built to divert the entire water flow into a tributary south of Árnes island. A reservoir will be created there with a 73 m-long dam close to the farmhouse Akbraut. Proposed power output is 57 MW.
Photo © Sigurgeir Sigurjónsson