If proposals for a power plant at Hvammur are carried out, the flow of the river would be substantially diminished, causing increased risk of erosion from the riverbed and resultant dust pollution and sandstorms. The area's only birch forest would be exposed to sheep grazing. Landsvirkjun has proposed the construction of an 93 MW power plant at Hvammur by the river Ţjórsá.
Hvammur Power Plant
- Hvammur 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.
A number of heathland birds nest densely along the lower reaches of the river Ţjórsá, but if it came to power plant construction considerable tracts of grassland would disappear under the water of the reservoir, and the nesting grounds of many birds would thus be lost. Six endangered species of birds nest in the area, i.e. greylag geese, harlequin ducks, goosanders, ravens, great black-backed gulls, and ptarmigans.
Photo © Jóhann Ísberg
The area‘s only natural birch forest is located on Minnanúpshólmi island (also known as Viđey island). The river‘s depth and strong currents have long protected the island from the onslaught of humans and sheep, and the island is a unique testimony to what original vegetation in the area may have been like as far back as when the country was first discovered. If plans for the Hvammur Power Plant are realized, the island will be exposed to sheep grazing, thus endangering the birch forest. There are strong grounds for protecting the island.
As part of the Hvammur Power Plant proposals, a reservoir named Hagalón will be created with the construction of a 16 m-high dam in the river Ţjórsá, not far above Minnanúpshólmi island (Viđey), and floodbanks will be constructed on the eastern bank of the river. The reservoir will cover an area of almost 4 km˛ and a large part of Hagaey island will be submerged.
A sizable tract of vegetation will also be submerged, and disruption will be caused by the proposed station building and diversion canal. Considerable erosion has already occurred in the area.
Proposed power output is 93 MW.