A currently proposed 30-50 MW power project at Eldvörp would have a considerable impact on the area’s natural and cultural heritage, including the site’s eponymous group of craters and the lava fields at Sundvörđuhraun. Furthermore, the proposed power plant is not considered sustainable and as such harmful to future generations.
Eldvörp and the Svartsengi Area
The perceived benefits and drawbacks of power proposals at Eldvörp have led to conflicting opinions.
One of the benefits of building a power plant at Eldvörp is the relatively low cost of the project due to its proximity to existing facilities at Svartsengi and Eldvörp, and the project is therefore seen as a natural progression.
Another benefit is the power plant‘s proximity to its main market. A road has already been built leading to the center of the Eldvörp crater cluster, and some research drillings have been carried out. As such, some disruption has already been caused to the area, but the project would not have an impact on the craters themselves, and it is argued that better roads would result in improved access to this natural wonder, which would co-exist in harmony with the power plant.
Opponents of the proposal mainly cite the following two arguments against the above:
Geologist Guđmundur Pálmason has demonstrated that geothermal energy at Svartsengi and Eldvörđ most likely comes from the same source, which means that further power plant construction would only serve to shorten the operational life expectancy of existing facilities, rendering the new power plant not only useless but outright harmful to the interests of future generations. Furthermore, this reduction in the operational life expectancy of the plant would further distance the whole project from standards of sustainable development and renewable resources.
Crater rows like Eldvörp are a precious and unique natural phenomenon in the Icelandic landscape. Most such craters were formed subglacially, but only a few were formed after the end of the last ice age. The Eldvörp craters are unique in west Iceland, and are like a miniature version of the larger and more famous Lakagígar craters far to the east.
In addition, the Eldvörp craters are close to Iceland‘s capital and major international airport, and as such are highly valuable if left untouched. Although the existing road and boreholes are somewhat detrimental to the area, their impact is minimal in comparison to the much larger impact that would be caused by proposed boreholes, steam pipes, station facilities and power lines.
When Algerian pirates pillaged Iceland in the 17th century, the townsfolk of Grindavík hid in the nearby Sundvörđuhraun lava field, where archeological remains still testify to this event. The ancient travel route of Árnastígur is also in the vicinity.
The Eldvörp craters are scattered along a 5 km stretch approximately 4 km southwest of the Blue Lagoon and Svartsengi. Geothermal activity at Eldvörp and Svartsengi is believed to share a common source.
Brigands used to dwell in the Sundvörđuhraun lava field at what is now a designated archeological site. Natural treasures in the area include the Reykjanes peninsula and Hafnarberg mountain, in addition to Eldvörp.
Geothermal activity is concentrated around the center of the Eldvörp crater row, which dates from after historical records began and stretches quite far with its rugged, young craters. Surface signs of geothermal activity are minimal; scattered wisps of steam can be seen in still weather, along with small patches around fumaroles in the lava.
A borehole has already been drilled at one of the Eldvörp craters. The impact of the borehole is insignificant comparted to the much greater impact of further proposed boreholes, and accompanying steam pipes, roads, station facilities and power lines.
The proposed Eldvörp Power Plant would have a power output of 30-50 MW, as a combination power plant and hot water source.
Grindavík township is currently finalizing blueprints for the power proposal and has already obtained the requisite permits for research and exploitation.