Iceland generates almost 100% of its electricity from renewable energy resources. Landsvirkjun uses hydropower, geothermal energy and wind power to generate 75% of this energy.
We operate 15 hydropower stations, three geothermal power stations and two wind turbines in five areas of operation, all over Iceland. We believe in an integrated approach where prudence, reliability and the harmony of operations with the environment and society are fundamental to our operations.
Hydropower: 12,867 GWh
The total energy generation of Landsvirkjun’s hydropower stations was approx. 12.867 GWh in 2019, compared with 13,199 GWh in the previous year.
Landsvirkjun operates 15 hydropower stations all over Iceland, divided into 4 areas of operation.
There are 7 power stations in the Þjórsá area, with a total of 19 generating units and a number of waterway structures. The area spans from the Hofsjökull Glacier and down to the Búrfell Hydropower Station.
There are 3 power stations in the Sog area with a total of 8 generating units and several waterway structures by the Þingvallavatn Lake and Úlfljótsvatn Lake.
The Laxá Power Stations belong to the Blanda operational area. There are three stations in the area, with five turbines. The waterway at the Blanda Hydropower Station spans a length of 25 km, from the Reftjarnarbunga and down to the Gilsá River
The fourth operational area is the Fljótsdalur Hydropower station, the largest hydropower station in the country, with 6 generating units and extensive waterway structures including tunnels measuring 70 km in length. The Station generated 4,836 GWh this year, or approximately 35% of Landsvirkjun's total generation.
In 2019, Landsvirkjun generated 92% of its energy using hydropower and 8% using geothermal energy.
Milestones in operations
This year, we celebrated milestones in the operations of four of our power stations. Since their inception, these power stations have served to support society, by increasing the supply of electricity and thereby facilitating a better standard of living and more diverse job opportunities.
Capacity 5 MW, startup 1939
Laxá 1 is the oldest of three hydropower stations on the Laxá River. The station supplied electricity only to the town of Akureyri in its first few years of operation.
Capacity 27 MW, startup 1959
The Steingrímsstöð Hydropower Station played a crucial role in increasing the electricity supply to the southwest of Iceland. Steingrímsstöð was the third station built in the River Sog area. The station harnesses the head where the Upper Sog drains from Lake Þingvallavatn into Lake Úlfljótsvatn.
Bjarnarflag Power Station
Capacity 5 MW, startup 1969
Bjarnarflag steam geothermal station is one of the oldest in Iceland. Bjarnarflag provides steam for the local district heating system and industrial use, as well as geothermal water for the nature baths at Lake Mývatn.
Sultartangi Power Station
Capacity 125 MW, startup 1999
The station is part of the extensive Þjórsá and Tungnaá River production area. The Station utilises water from the River Tungnaá which has already passed through the turbines of the Hrauneyjafoss and Sigalda stations, on its way down from the highlands. It also utilises the Þjórsá River.
Power station operations
Monitoring & maintenance
The operation of Landsvirkjun’s power stations was successful throughout the year. There were 89 unforeseen interruptions in 2019 compared with 95 in the previous year. Landsvirkjun's goal is to ensure that generating units in the power stations are available 99% of the year, not accounting for routine maintenance periods. This goal was achieved this year, as units were available 99.6% of the time compared with 99.7% in the previous year.
Difficult weather conditions
Landsvirkjun did not experience any malfunctions during a heavy storm that hit the country at the end of last year. However, there were some ice jam problems at the Laxá stations. The Icelandic Meteorological Office, Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management were able to give us advance warning which enabled us to initiate necessary emergency response plans, prepare and ensure the safety of our employees and man the power stations.
Improvement projects at power stations
73 investment and improvement projects were carried out at our power stations in 2019.
Bjarnarflag is refurbished
The refurbished Bjarnarflag Geothermal Steam Station came back online in 2019. The project began in March 2018 and included the installation of a new turbine unit, the renewal of electrical equipment and renovations to the power station. The new steam turbine uses the same amount of steam as the previous one but delivers more power - 5MW instead of 3MW - and utilises the resources more efficiently. The project has improved the security of the electricity supply in the Mývatn area.
The security of supply was also improved by the installation of a new heat exchanger at the Skútustaðahreppur heating utility. A new unit generator transformer was also installed, and the station's connection to the RARIK distribution system was renewed.
A new bridge at the Sultartanga tailrace canal
We completed a major phase in maintenance work in 2019 when a new bridge was constructed over the tailrace canal at the Sultartangi Hydropower Station. Extensive efforts have been made in recent years to prevent further erosion of a weak sandstone area in the upper end of the canal.
The Sultartangi tailrace canal reaches a depth of 40 m and is 7 km in length. Most of the maintenance work was completed on the canal in 2019.
Extensive work needed to be carried out both underneath and on either side of the old bridge. Landsvirkjun originally planned to shut the station down so that the work could be carried out from the empty canal bottom. This type of shutdown would have been an expensive option. Calculations showed that building a new bridge would be cheaper, as it could be done while the station was fully operational.
Maintenance work at Búrfell
We continued maintenance work on machinery at the Búrfell Hydropower Station during the year, but the high system load at the station made it difficult to find convenient time slots. The introduction of Búrfell Station II in 2018 reduced the load at the older station, which allowed us to carry out much-needed maintenance work on the turbine units.
Turbine units 5 and 3 were overhauled in 2019. Four of the six turbine units have now been overhauled.
Future energy demands
We need to generate enough energy to meet Iceland’s future demand for electricity. Various power projects are currently under consideration. Maintaining the balance between the economic, environmental, and social impact of our projects is a priority. These three pillars of sustainable development are a key factor in the assessment of these projects.
Europe has already exhausted many of its energy resources but Iceland still has many untapped renewable energy resources.
Each potential power project is the result of many years of research, conducted to ensure the feasibility, sustainability and minimal environmental impact of each project. Iceland has created an effective framework to ensure that further utilisation and conservation go hand in hand; based on three main components: the Master Plan for Nature Protection and Energy utilisation, environmental impact assessments and planning legislation. Power projects have an inevitable impact on the environment, whatever their location, and the framework provides an efficient tool for assessing whether or not the impact of a power project outweighs the benefits.
Landsvirkjun has identified five potential power projects for prioritisation:
- Hvammur Power Project
- Power projects in the Blanda channel
- Redesigning the Búrfell Wind Farm
- Power increases at Krafla/Þeistareykir
- Expansion of the Þeistareykir Geothermal Power Station
Preparation work in 2019
- Hvammur: We focused on the design criteria and tender design of the power project in 2019. The side of the dam facing the water will be concreted, whereas the side facing away from the water will be covered by vegetation, to minimise the visual impact of the structure. Work also continued on meeting the Environmental Impact Assessment requirements.
- Power projects in the Blanda channel: We focused on decreasing start-up costs and completed an environmental plan for the area.
- Redesigning the Búrfell Wind Farm: We are currently redesigning the wind farm, to respond to the feedback we received from the Environmental Impact assessment and the third phase of the Master Plan for Nature Protection and Energy utilization. We are particularly focused on reducing the effect on the surrounding landscape and visual impact.
- Power increase at the Krafla and Þeistareykir Geothermal Power Stations: We have assessed various measures to maximise the utilisation of geothermal energy at the Þeistareykir and Krafla Stations.
- Expansion of the Þeistareykir Geothermal Power Station: Adding a 45 MW turbine at the Þeistareykir Geothermal Power Station is a viable option. However, the current station must complete three years of operation, before any expansion projects are undertaken, to prove that the geothermal system can cope with the current rate of utilisation and any future increase.