The Gjástykki valley lies within the Krafla volcanic system, a conservation area of international significance. Space travel enthusiasts have used a site east of the main volcanic area for training. Ideas have been aired for a 45 MW geothermal power station in the northern part of the lava fields.
Gjástykki Power Plant
- Gjástykki Power Plant
Ideas for a geothermal plant at Gjástykki are based on estimated power production potential lying in the range of 33 to 99 MW.
Proponents in favor of plant construction argue that accordingly a 90 MW estimate is reasonable, that the plant is a natural progression of the Krafla Power Plant, and that the project received unanimous support from a committee on the development of Iceland's Highlands whereby the whole area reaching from Bjarnarflag at Krafla north to Gjástykki would be devoted to power projects.
Furthermore, it has been argued that the plant would facilitate access to the area for tourists, and that similar benefits would be reaped here as at the Krafla Power Plant and other geothermal plants that have proved an attraction for tourists. Plant facilities would only cover 2% of the Gjástykki area.
On the other hand, it is argued that the area‘s conservational value is far greater than its value for power production, as in the case of Yellowstone National Park in the United States. The main reason for this would be that nowhere else in the world offers such clearly visible signs of tectonic plate movements and the creation of Iceland as those created by the Kröflueldar eruptions. Furthermore, the area is reportedly ideal for preparing astronauts for a Martian expedition, just as Askja was the site for a lunar expedition training camp back in 1967.
Potential income from tourism is therefore said to be far greater than that from power production. An area full of steam pipes, roads, boreholes, power lines and plant facilities could undeniably never offer the same experience to tourists as an untouched area. 2% of the Gjástykki area comes to around 2 km˛ and the scenery of large portions of the area would be impaired by the presence of unsightly power plant facilities in their midst.
Another argument against power plant construction is that the project fails to meet the standards for renewable resources and sustainable development, as power production is estimated possible for at most 50-100 years. If power production is to last for 250 years (the minimum standard for renewable resources being 200-300 years), only a fraction of proposed power output would be harnessable at most, and in a worst-case scenario could turn out to be negligible.
The high-altitude plant Small Adder's-tongue and two endangered species of moss are found in the area, alongside three species of geothermal moss and one species of lichen that the Icelandic Institute of Natural History considers to have high conservational value.
Three endangered species of birds are found in the Gjástykki area: falcon, ptarmigan and raven.
Furthermore, a limited number of microbe species are found in the area that may be endemic.
Gjástykki is the name of a rift valley lying to the north of the Krafla caldera. During a volcanic eruption at Gjástykki in October 1984, the ground split asunder and a 3-4 m wide crack formed between the American and European tectonic plates. Lava issued from the crack, flowing in and out repeatedly.
The Gjástykki area under discussion for exploitation is a plateau of over 100 km˛ lying at an altitude of over 400 m above sea level. It is situated approximately 6 km north of Mount Leirhnjúkur and the Krafla Power Plant, just northeast of Lake Mývatn. The area is bordered by the Gćsafjöll mountains, Gjástykkisbunga and Sandmúli to the south, the Ţórunnarfjöll mountains to the west, and the Hrútafjöll mountains to the east. Rifts stretch north from the area over flat terrain towards Kelduhverfi.
Lava fields devoid of vegetation lie in the southern part of Gjástykki, formed in the Kröflueldar volcanic eruptions of 1975-1984. The area draws its name from the numerous chasms stretching from north to south, many of which were formed in the volcanic eruptions. The terrain to the north of the lava fields is covered in vegetation, but the hillocks rising from the plain are mostly barren.
Gjástykki, Mount Leirhnjúkur, Vítismó and Krafla are often referred to as separate areas, but this is disputed at least to the extent that the area of the Kröflueldar volcanic activity should be classified as a single group of land formations under the name of Leirhnjúkur-Gjástykki.
Gjástykki forms part of the Krafla volcanic system, an area of international conservational significance, and is currently classified as protected. Ideas for a 45 MW geothermal plant at Gjástykki have been aired in the past.
According to the Master Plan for Hydro and Geothermal Energy Resources, Gjástykki is an example of an area that constitutes a veritable treasure trove of natural phenomena. This is where lava gushed forth from a volcanic rift in 1984, spreading to form "new Icelandic terrain", and flowing in and out of the rift repeatedly.