Thousands of tourists visit this popular tourist destination daily, better known as the Krýsuvík Geothermal Area. HS Orka plans to build a 50-100 MW power plant in the Sveifluháls geothermal area. The project would entail considerable disruptions to the area: 10-20 boreholes, road construction, steam pipes and power lines.
The Krýsuvík Area
The Krýsuvík area encompasses several small geothermal systems that are all connected to the Krýsuvík volcanic system. The main areas are Sveifluháls, Austurengjar, Trölladyngja and Sandfell. Geothermal activity can also be found at Syđri Stapi in Lake Kleifarvatn, at Köldunámur and at the hot spring Hver.
This geothermal energy is generated along the fissures of the volcanic system. Near the center of the system lies a ridge of tuff (a type of volcanic rock) called Núpshlíđarháls, and on either side of this ridge lava formations and volcanic ravines can be found. In places, the tuff has condensed allowing small streams to flow out onto the lava fields, where vegetation then flourishes, for example at Höskuldarvellir, Selsvellir, Vigdísarvellir and Tjarnarvellir. Outside of these geothermal areas, running surface water is virtually unheard of in the Reykjanes mountain range west of Hellisheiđi heath.
Currently, there are plans to build power plants in the area, thus endangering wildlife and the quality of the water. In the Master Plan for Hydro and Geothermal Energy Resources, four power projects are proposed in the Krýsuvík area. All are classified as exploitable or awaiting further assessment. Sandfell and Sveifluháls are classified as exploitable, while the proposals for Trölladyngja and Austurengjar await further assessment.
Plans for energy production in the area are linked to proposed aluminum processing in Helguvík. In the National Energy Authority‘s evaluation, the Krýsuvík area is treated as a single area estimated to cover 89 km˛ with a potential power output of 445 MW for 50 years, making it the third largest in Iceland after the Hengill area and the Torfajökull area. Doubts have been expressed concerning this estimate, especially as it does not seem to concur with the results of research drillings carried out in the area around 1970. Independent research indicates that the area‘s total output capacity is approximately 120 MW for 50 years, whereas the proposed aluminum plant at Helguvík would require 650 MW.
Furthermore, the power proposal is not considered sustainable, as the energy in the area would most likely be depleted within a few decades. For a power plant to be considered sustainable, the area should be exploitable for at least 200-300 years.
Over 60% of Icelanders live in the vicinity of the unspoiled natural environment of the Krýsuvík area and Reykjanesskagi peninsula. As such, the area is ideal for outdoor activities, and the landscape is reminiscent of the unspoiled expanses of the Iceland highlands. Ideas for a volcanic national park on the Reykjanesskagi peninsula have been around for a long time, as the peninsula is where the Mid-Atlantic Ridge surfaces at the conjunction of two tectonic plates, and signs of tumultuous volcanic activity over the last few millennia abound.
The Sveifluháls geothermal area is commonly known as the Krýsuvík geothermal area. The area lies just east of a volcanic fissure commonly named after Krýsuvík.
Sveifluháls is still a relatively undisturbed area, and despite considerable drilling in the mid-20th century, it would be an easy matter to restore the area to an almost natural state.
The geothermal area is roughly 2-3 km in length and 2 km wide. The main activity is on the east side of the ridge. The geothermal activity seems to be at least partly linked to fissures running along a northeast-southwest axis like the volcanic fissure. The Sveifluháls ridge (including the Undirhlíđar hills) is up to 20 km in length and 2 km wide, a segmented tuff ridge rising on average 150-200 m above the surrounding countryside. The tuff does not support vegetation in most places, aside from the geothermal area where metamorphism has compressed the tuff.
Geothermal activity in the area manifests in fumaroles, mudpots and muddy hot springs, and the level of activity varies widely over time. The area is unusually colorful due to metamorphic forces acting on the tuff, and there are numerous examples of sulphuric deposits, mineral salt deposits and gypsum.
The area is of special interest due to several craters created in volcanic explosions, the most famous being Lake Grćnavatn, Lake Gestsstađavatn and Lake Arnarvatn. Minor signs of volcanic activity in the Holocene (present epoch) can be found in the area, for example in Lake Grćnavatn.
A single borehole at Bađstofa currently meets the energy needs of the local community, but there are plans for a power plant in the area, just north of Lake Grćnavatn. Proposed power output is 50-100 MW. HS Orka has permission to conduct research in the area and has plans for a power plant, but so far has not obtained permission to exploit the area from Hafnarfjörđur township.
Construction of the plant would entail the drilling of 10-20 boreholes along with road construction and steam pipes, causing disruption to the area and unforeseeable consequences for the area‘s geothermal system.
Drilling would take place along the eastern side of the ridge and possibly even along the series of hot springs between Bađstofa and Seltún.
To deliver energy produced to the national grid, a high-voltage power line or subterranean power cable would need to be laid to the transformer station at Hamranes in Straumsvík. A power line would destroy the unique landscape of the Sveifluháls ridge along Lake Kleifarvatn, or the landscape of Móhálsadalur valley west of the ridge.
The area forms part of Reykjanesfólkvangur National Park.