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Posts from the ‘Geothermal Power’ Category

Serious geothermal troubles for Reykjavík Energy

Few months ago, we wrote about the troubles of Reykjavík Energy regarding its 303 MW Hellisheiði geothermal plant. Now, an Icelandic newspaper has looked into the matter, and it seems that the future generation of the Hellisheiði plant is somewhat uncertain. Following is a rough translation of a story published yesterday in the daily paper Fréttablaðið:

hellisheidi-geothermal-plant_reykjavik-energy-2Icelandic energy firm ON, a subsidiary of Orkuveita Reykjavíkur (Reykjavik Energy) has planned a six-year drilling program, costing ISK 13 billion, just to maintain enough steam for the Hellisheiði geothermal plant. The plant was constructed in three phases in the period 2006-2011. If nothing will be done, this fairly new geothermal power plant will experience rapidly falling generation.

Reykjavik Energy has already announced a tender for the drilling of seven new geothermal wells over the next three years. It is not yet known how many new wells in total will be needed to ensure full generation of the plant. But a newly revised plan of ON allows for 15 new wells to be drilled over the coming ten years.

This is somewhat less drilling than ON had anticipated necessary when the power company first introduced its drilling program last autumn (2016). However, the situation has turned out to be more serious than originally thought in 2013, when the company first admitted the problem of falling steam. The fact is, that very soon after the Hellisheiði station was fully constructed it became clear that the plant would also be needing geothermal steam from the nearby Hverahlíð geothermal area.

The geothermal resource at Hverahlíð now supplies Hellisheiði with enough steam for 50 MW of power capacity. The original geothermal area which the Hellisheiði station is utilizing, now only supplies enough steam for 225 MW (but the plant has an installed capacity of 303 MW). In addition to the cost of drilling for more steam, Reykjavík Energy also needs to invest an estimated ISK five billion over the next five years, for re-injecting water into the deep geothermal source.

reykjavik-energy_hengill-geothermal-areasAlready in 2012, the management of Reykjavík Energy had realized that the Hellisheiði geothermal plant was experiencing falling steam, thus not being able to deliver expected sustainable generation. The following year (2013) it was decided to connect the plant with the nearby geothermal area called Hverahlíð. Until then, Reykjavík Energy had been planning a new 90 MW geothermal station at Hverahlíð, to further supply aluminum industry in Iceland.

The new pipeline from Hverahlíð started delivering steam to the Hellisheiði station in early 2016. The cost of the pipeline was more than ISK three billions. If this pipeline-project would not have been realized, Reykjavík Energy would have needed to drill several new geothermal wells, between 2012 and 2014, at an estimated cost of ISK 700 millions for each well. Such drilling project at that time would have been almost impossible, as the company was in critical financial situation.

In 2013, scientists at Reykjavík Energy predicted that due to over-exploitation of the geothermal resource, the performance of Hellisheiði station would decline by an equivalent of seven MW on average annually. By then, the management realised that the time-frame in which the 303 MW power plant had been constructed, had been unrealistically short.

Now it is generally accepted that geothermal resources in Iceland need to be utilized in smaller phases, to ensure enough geothermal steam for the turbines. And the result of each modest step needs to be analyzed before starting on the next phase.

reykjavik-energy_bjarni-bjarnason-ceo-of-the-year-award-2014Bjarni Bjarnason, CEO of Reykjavík Energy and Chairman of its subsidiary ON, now says that soon after the Hellisheiði plant came into full operation, it became clear that the geothermal area utilized by the plant was not performing as the company had hoped for.

“After mid-year 2014, it became clear that the area was not delivering as sustainable power as had been expected. The falling generation was equivalent to loosing 20 MW of capacity each year, which was much more than had been expected when the plant was designed and constructed.”

Bjarnason acknowledges that this outcome was a shock. And he adds that last autumn (2016) when the company was deciding on future plans and budget, the scenario was “very dark”. [It should be noted that Bjarnason was not working at Reykjavík Energy when decisions where taken regarding construction of the Hellisheiði plant].

The situation Reykvík Energy was faced with in the autumn of 2016, was to drill up to 26 new geothermal wells, just to maintain the production of the Heillisheiði plant. The total new investment in the coming five years was expected to be ISK 27 billion – just to keep the generation of the plant stable at a satisfactory level.

hellisheidi-geothermal-plant_on-2At that time the company launched a special program to analyze the geothermal resource. This research lead to a conclusion which is more positive than the previous estimate from last autumn. It is now expected that the drilling needed to keep the production stable will have a total cost of ISK 19 billions.

This lower cost reflects the new estimate of the resource, resulting in fewer new wells needed to deliver enough energy for the plant. The new geothermal wells are expected be drilled both in the Hellisheiði and Hverahlíð areas, and are supposed to maintain enough steam for 285 MW.

Asked if the decision to connect the Hellisheiði Plant with the geothermal area in Hverahlíð was a mistake – given the current need to undertake a major drilling for more steam – Bjarnason points out that the pipeline to Hverahlíð was both successful and necessary to save the operation of the Hellisheiði plant.

“ When we look at our decision [to connect the Hellisheiði plant with the Hverahlíð geothermal area] it was absolutely correct. And the project itself was successful; no technical problems nor accidents occurred during the construction of the pipeline, despite the snowy winter that year”.

reykjavik-energy_hverahlid-geothermal-areaBjarnason also points out that the steam from Hverahlíð has given Reykjavík Energy the opportunity to reduce exploitation of older geothermal areas. And he claims that it has already become obvious that the already explored areas have recovered faster than expected.

The total cost of Hellisheiði geothermal plant so far is about ISK 94 billion (close to USD 850 millions or just under USD 3 million pr. each MW). Having regard to this cost, it is clear that the extra cost due to the new geothermal wells (ISK 19 billions) is significant. However, Reykjavík Energy would in any case have needed to drill new wells to keep the production of the Hellisheiði plant stable. If original plans would have been realized, the company would in any case have drilled one new geothermal well every year (on average) to keep the generation stable.

The Hellisheiði plants generates 20% of all revenues of Reykjavík Energy. The profitability (return on investment; ROI) of the plant is considered not to be acceptable. According to the annual report of Reykjavík Energy for 2015, the combined ROI of the two geothermal plants at Hellisheiði and Nesjavellir was 4.8% for hot water production and 4.9% for electricity generation. This is much lower return than the normal target for profitability in competitive energy services, where 7-8% return may be seen as acceptable.

Whether the new geothermal wells will return the generation at the Hellisheiði geothermal plant into balance, and offer a satisfactory ROI, remains to be seen. The success of drilling for geothermal steam is always uncertain.

Hellisheiði geothermal plant to be sold?

A firm called MJDB has made offer to buy the Hellisheiði geothermal plant in SW-Iceland.

hellisheidivirkjun_geothermal_power_plantThe Hellisheiði plant is the largest and most recent geothermal plant in Iceland, starting operation in 2003 (the next geothermal plant in Iceland will be the 45 MW station at Þeistareykir in NE-Iceland). Hellisheiði station has a generation capacity of 303 MW and 130 MW in thermal energy. It is owned and operated by the energy firm Orka náttúrunnar (ON), which is a subsidiary of Orkuveita Reykjavíkur (OR); sometimes referred to as Reykjavík Energy. OR / Reykjavík Energy is owned by the city of Reykjavík and couple of other municipalities in SW-Iceland.

The thermal production from the Hellisheiði geothermal station is mainly used by households and businesses in the capital area of Reykjavík. Most of the electricity generated by the plant is sold to the Norðurál aluminum smelter, owned by Century Aluminum.

Not much public information is available about the interested buyer; MJDB. According to Icelandic media, MJDB is mostly owned by Magnús B. Jóhannesson, who is director of a firm with the name of America Renewables, in Rolling Hills in California. No public information is available about the offering price for the geothermal plant.

iceland-grundartangi-century-nordural-elkem-china-bluestarInvestors and large industrial power consumers may see opportunity in owning the Hellisheiði geothermal plant. Two large industrial companies at Grundartangi in Southwestern Iceland, an aluminum smelter owned by the American firm Century Aluminum and a ferrosilicon plant owned by Elkem / China National Bluestar, have major power purchasing agreements running out in the coming years. Due to the current tight power supply situation in Iceland, it may become very valuable to own Iceland’s largest geothermal plant.

As the Hellisheiði Station has been under stress due to falling pressure in the geothermal area, with substantial investment needed to keep up full production, the interested buyers may also foresee a chance to get the plant for a fairly low price. However, having Icelandic politics in mind, it is very unlikely that the City of Reykjavík has any interest in selling the plant.

Highly competitive wind power

In their recent report on subsea electric cable between Iceland and Britain, Kvika bank and Pöyry predict what new power projects will be developed in Iceland to fulfill the electricity demand. In this article we will focus on why wind power is likely to be an important part of the power development in Iceland. Also we will explain how the information in the said report about cost of wind generation is outdated, and how wind power in Iceland is far more competitive than presented in the report.

According to the report by Kvika and Pöyry, levelized cost of energy (LCOE) for 6 TWh of new wind power generation in Iceland will on average be approximately 51-52 EUR/MWh (as can be seen on the top-slide below, which is from a presentation by Kvika/Pöyry). It is interesting to compare this cost figure with LCOE for wind generation as represented by the financial firm Lazard. Note that the cost figures presented by Lazard are in USD, and here we use the average exchange rate in 2016, where one USD equals 0.9 EUR.

  • In 2014, Lazard LCOE for onshore wind was 33-73 EUR/MWh (with 53 EUR/MWh as average).
  • In 2015, Lazard LCOE for onshore wind was 29-69 EUR/MWh (with 49 EUR/MWh as average).
  • In 2016, Lazard LCOE for onshore wind was 29-56 EUR/MWh (with 42.50 EUR/MWh as average).

kvika-poyry_electricity-generation-cost-lcoe-iceland-slide-13The report by Kvika/Pöyry, mentioned above, was officially published around mid-year 2016. However, the main work on the report took place in the latter half of 2015. This means that the most recent LCOE-figures for wind power available when the research for the report was ongoing, were LCOE-calculations for the year of 2014.  Thus, it may not be surprising that the average LCOE for wind in the report by Kvika/Pöyry is close to Lazard’s result as presented in their report from September 2014 (LCOE version 8.0). The numbers are 51-52 EUR/MWh and 53 EUR/MWh, respectively.

We want to emphasise that Kvika/Pöyry did not use Lazard as a reference. Instead, the assumed LCOE in the report by Kvika/Pöyry is based on numbers from IRENA (IRENA Power Costs Report 2014, published in January 2015). It is also important to keep in mind that cost figures used by Kvika/Pöyry included the average cost of linking wind power farms to the grid.

However, what is especially important is how the figures for LCOE of wind power generation were presented in the work by Kvika/Pöyry. While the companies estimated the cost of each new geothermal- and hydro project to be developed, they simply used the average LCOE for wind (approximately 51-52 EUR/MWh) as a fixed LCOE for all new wind power projects in Iceland generating up to 6 TWh annually. Which is a very general and/or imprecise presentation of LCOE for wind.

kvika-poyry_electricity-generation-cost-lcoe-iceland-corrected-2017It would have been much clearer, for the comparison, to estimate not only average cost of wind, but also the lower cost and the higher cost of wind power, when developing 6 TWh of new wind generation. Having regard to the figures from Lazard, it can be expected that such a methodology would have resulted in a LCOE between 33-73 EUR/MWh. This is reflected by the red line on the graph at left (the average cost being the same as estimated by Kvika/Pöyry).

It should also be noted that due to good wind conditions in Iceland, the average cost of 6 TWh of new wind generation development might be even lower than the average given by Lazard or IRENA. Then, more than 2 TWh and possibly up to 3 TWh of new wind generation might be less costly than the high-cost geothermal projects planned in Iceland.

What now becomes quite clear, is how substantial low-cost wind power can be expected to be developed in Iceland, before constructing some of the new high-cost geothermal plants. It seems likely that at least up to 2 TWh of new wind power may be developed in Iceland much earlier than projected by Kvika/Pöyry. This conclusion was missing in the work of Kvika/Pöyry. As a result, Kvika/Pöyry under-estimated the possibilities of wind power in Iceland in the coming years.

kvika-poyry_electricity-generation-cost-lcoe-iceland-corrected_lazard-2017In addition, the cost figures used in the report by Kvika/Pöyry may already be outdated. LCOE for onshore wind has gradually been decreasing. Therefore, wind power may develop faster in Iceland than in the scenario(s) presented by Kvika/Pöyry. According to the most recent report by Lazard (version 10.0 from December 2016), LCOE for wind in the USA is now estimated to be between 28 and 56 EUR/MWh (with an average of 42 EUR/MWh).

These figures are strong arguments for assuming wind power in Iceland will be even more competitive than predicted a couple of years ago. This is explained by the additional red line on the last graph, which is based on the most recent figures from Lazard. The conclusion is that wind parks at sites in Iceland offering high capacity factor, will be more economical than some – or even many – of the geothermal projects now being considered in Iceland.

Iceland’s new energy segment

If the IceLink HVDC subsea interconnector between Iceland and UK, will be developed, more than 2,000 new megawatts (MW) of power capacity is expected to be developed in Iceland in the coming two decades. All these capacity additions will all be in renewable power technology. Most of it will be in the traditional types of Icelandic electricity generation, which is hydro- and geothermal power. However, substantial amount of the new capacity will be in wind power, making wind power the fastest growing type of generation in Iceland.

Low-Cost Wind means Slower Growing Geothermal

It is hard to predict with precision how much capacity will be added to each of the three types of renewable generation mentioned above. The table below shows two predictions, one by Kvika/Pöyry and the other by Askja Energy Partners. According to Kvika/Pöyry, IceLink will need approximately 1,459 MW of new capacity, bringing total new capacity in Iceland to 2,137 MW by 2035.

Analysis of Askja Energy shows that Kvika/Pöyry may be over-estimating how fast new geothermal power can be developed in Iceland (and under-estimating the potentials of Icelandic wind power). We at Askja Energy, predict slower growth in new Icelandic geothermal power, and somewhat faster growth in wind power. In addition, it is very likely that new Icelandic hydropower can be developed somewhat faster than Kvika and Pöyry are forecasting in their central scenario.

Table: New power capacity (MW) in Iceland until 2035
Central scenario with IceLink HVDC cable
Forecast by Forecast by
Technology Kvika/Pöyry Askja Energy
Geothermal 722 580
Hydro 865 933
Wind 550 768
Total new capacity added 2,137 2,281

Note that the Askja Energy scenario assumes faster capacity additions in hydropower and wind power than Kvika/Pöyry, but substantially slower geothermal capacity additions. The result is less generation pr. each new MW (thus, higher new capacity needed in total to deliver same/similar generation). All numbers are an estimation and may vary, such as due to what power projects exactly (in each category) will be developed.

Wind Power the Fastest Growing Segment

No matter if the forecast by Askja Energy or the forecast by Kvika/Pöyry will be closer to the real development, wind power can be expected to become Iceland’s fastest growing energy segment. If IceLink will be constructed, no type of generation in Iceland will grow as fast (in percentages) as wind power. As explained on the graph below.

iceland-power-capacity-additions-until-2035_ketill-sigurjonsson-2016The question that remains, is if and when the decision will be taken on IceLink. But even without IceLink, it is likely that new wind power will be developed in Iceland in the coming years, as numerous locations in Iceland offer very high capacity factor for wind turbines.

Pöyry overestimating Icelandic geothermal

In their recent report titled “Subsea electric cable between Iceland and Britain – cost-benefit analysis”, Kvika bank and Pöyry seem to overestimate how fast Icelandic geothermal power can be developed. In their central-scenario, having regard to new demand from the IceLink subsea power cable, Kvika and Pöyry predict that by 2025 Iceland may have developed 820 MW of new geothermal capacity. This is somewhat surprising estimation, as it seems unrealistic to expect such a fast construction of new geothermal plants in Iceland.

kvika-poyry-iceland-new-electricity-generation-until-2035

According to Kvika and Pöyry, Iceland will need around 1,416 MW of new power capacity by 2025 if IceLink will be constructed. As shown on the graphs at left and below, Kvika/Pöyry expect most of this new capacity to be in new geothermal power plants, with a capacity of 820 MW. According to their report, 785 MW will be new traditional geothermal power plants and 35 MW will be smaller low temperature geothermal stations (totally 820 MW in new geothermal power).

The rest of the needed capacity by 2025, around 596 MW, is expected to include 448 MW in hydropower refurbishment (such as added capacity in current hydro stations), 93 MW in new large hydropower plants, and 55 MW in new small hydropower plants. Note that the exact predicted megawatts for each category are not absolute figures, so for each category there may be a few more or less MW. Thus, it is maybe not very surprising that the given figures in Pöyry’s slide-presentation for hydropower refurbishment, do not quite match (450/448), as can be seen on the graphs and also here on Twitter.

kvika-poyry-iceland-new-electricity-generation-until-2035-graphIceland offers very good geology for geothermal power development. However, it is costly and complicated to sufficiently establish and harness the geothermal resource in each new area. Having regard to the Icelandic experience in geothermal development so far, 785 MW of new large geothermal power stations may call for approximately eight to ten new development areas, each area with close to 100 MW of power capacity constructed in preferably two steps (starting with 50 MW or so).

There may be some possibilities to construct new Icelandic geothermal stations with 100 MW capacity before 2025. However, such an intensive construction/utilization in a new area could substantially increase the risk of over-exploitation of the geothermal area. And it is also important to have in mind that due to environmental regulations, such as regarding planning and impact assessment, it becomes even more unlikely that up to ten new geothermal projects can be developed in Iceland in less than a decade.

This does not mean that Iceland would not be able to deliver the power needed for IceLink in time. Due to well-known hydropower opportunities and good wind potentials, economical wind- and hydropower (in addition to substantial new geothermal power) would most likely ensure sufficient power supply for IceLink. But the scenario for each power category (geothermal, hydro, and wind) will most likely be somewhat different from what Kvika/Pöyry estimate.

For some reason, Kvika/Pöyry made little effort to cost-analyze the development of wind power in Iceland. Having regard to numerous good sites for high-capacity wind farms in Iceland, it can be argued that wind power can fill in the gap which may occur due to slower than expected development of geothermal power. In our next article, we will be looking further into this issue, explaining how much wind power may be developed in Iceland in the coming decade.

Facts or fiction about IceLink?

The IceLink subsea interconnector is a proposed power cable that would connect the power markets of Iceland and Great Britain (UK). On the website of Icelandic national power company Landsvirkjun, the rational for the IceLink cable is described. In this article we will fact-check this rationale:

Claim no.1:  IceLink lifts the isolation of the Icelandic electricity market and it assists Europe to achieve interconnection capacity targets amounting to 10% of installed capacity, and it opens up new markets for both Icelandic and UK suppliers.

  • Correct: The Icelandic power market is isolated. With IceLink, that would change.
  • Correct: IceLink would be part of Europe’s projects to achieve interconnection capacity targets.
  • Correct: IceLink do open up new markets for Icelandic and UK suppliers.

The EU Commission has set a target of 10% electricity interconnection by 2020. This means that all EU countries should construct electricity cables that allow at least 10% of the electricity produced by their power plants to be transported across its borders to its neighboring countries. However, IceLink will not be ready by 2020. Thus, it seems likely that the IceLink project would rather become a part of EU’s new energy policy and targets for 2030. In fact, this development or process has already started.

lv-hvdc-subsea-power-cables-mapThe EU Commission has already proposed to extend the interconnection target from 19% to 15% by 2030. The targets will be reached through the implementation of Projects of Common Interest. A new special expert group on electricity interconnection targets established by the EU Commission  had its first meeting in Brussels on 17th and 18th October 2016. It is yet to be seen what will become the new interconnection target for each of the EU member states, but so far the UK’s share is only less than 5%. In 2015 domestic installed capacity in GB was 91 GW, while total capacity of interconnectors between UK and other countries was 4 GW.

Regarding IceLink opening up new markets, it should be noted that the general power market in Iceland is very small compared to GB or UK. Thus, for suppliers in the UK the Icelandic power market is probably not very interesting. However, it might be positive for suppliers of wind energy in Scotland to have access to Iceland, as we will now explain:

Claim no.2:  Through bi-directional flows, IceLink could potentially reduce the cost of managing constraints between northern GB and the major consumption centres further south as energy is directed to Iceland at times of excess wind power generation in the north, stored in hydro reservoirs, and returned at times of lower wind output.

  • Correct: IceLink would open up the possibility to store for example Scottish wind power in Iceland’s reservoirs.
  • Correct: During time of low wind in Scotland, Icelandic hydropower stations could be utilized to bring  the wind power back to Scotland.

Claim no.3:  By providing flexible energy in near term spot markets and the balancing mechanism, IceLink can lower the cost of balancing, in particular in a system with a high penetration of intermittent generation.

  • Possibly: There is a possibility that IceLink would lower the cost of balancing electricity supply/demand. However, this of course depends on several factors, such as the British capacity market.

Claim no.4:  IceLink connects currently isolated Iceland´s renewable electricity system with the broader European system and offers a means to decrease Europe´s dependency on imported fossil fuels in a cost efficient way.

  • Correct, but not very relevant: IceLink is expected to offer the UK (and thus the European system) access to approx. 5,000 GWh annually. The current total annual electricity consumption in the UK is close to 335,000 GWh. Access to power generated in Iceland would thus only add a fraction to the current power supplied and consumed in the UK.

However, note that in 2015 the renewable power generation in the UK was close to 83 TW, so an addition of 5 TWh of renewable generation is substantial. This of course means that IceLink would in fact make UK (and Europe) a little bit less dependent on power from for example coal and natural gas (fossil fuels)

Claim no.5: IceLink increases diversity of power supply at both ends and enhances further deployment of renewables through coupling highly flexible hydro generation with that of intermittent wind and solar generation.

  • Correct: Iceland and UK utilize different sources for their power generation. While UK is mainly dependent on natural gas, coal and nuclear energy for its power generation, Iceland utilizes hydro and geothermal for close to all its generation. Moreover, most of the generation in Iceland comes from hydro. IceLink will thus indeed increase diversity of the power supply, and Iceland’s flexible hydro power is perfect to balance supply and demand while solar and wind power fluctuates.

Claim no.6: IceLink delivers reliable and flexible energy into the GB system at times of thin supply margins.

  • Correct: IceLink could indeed deliver reliable and flexible energy into the GB/UK system at times of thin supply margins. To better understand the importance of access to flexible hydropower, based on large reservoirs, we would like to refer to our earlier article; IceLink offers flexibility rather than base load power.

Claim no.7: IceLink allows energy to flow to Iceland at times of low hydro generation potential, e.g. due to unusually low precipitation levels.

  • Correct: Every few years, the Icelandic reservoirs fill up quite late due to low precipitation or cold weather (resulting in low glacial melting). This decreases the efficiency of the Icelandic hydropower stations and adds a risk to the system. With IceLink this risk would become less.

Claim no.8: Iceland generation is 100% renewable. The interconnector would provide an export opportunity for the surplus energy in the renewable hydro system that is not currently harnessed due to economical and operational limitations.

  • Correct: The closed Icelandic electricity system is constructed in the manner of securing stable supply to heavy industries (especially to aluminum smelters, who need stable power supply 24/7 all year around). In years with unusually much precipitation or heavy glacial melting (warm periods), excess amounts of water runs into the reservoirs, resulting in overflow. Turbines could be added to harness this excess, but such development is costly and not economic unless having access to a market where power prices are higher than in Iceland. IceLink would create access to such a market.

Claim no.9: The UK has committed itself to ambitious reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. IceLink contributes with its lower cost of low carbon energy compared to domestic marginal alternatives and its flexibility contributes to reducing the cost of enabling the integration of UK intermittent renewables.

  • Correct: Even though the Icelandic geothermal,- hydro- and wind power sources are fairly limited when having regard to the enormous size of the British power market, it would make economic sense for the UK to buy Icelandic renewable power instead of for example more expensive British offshore wind power. For more on this subject, we refer to our earlier article; UK’s electricity strike prices positive for IceLink. And we can add that even though strike prices for new offshore wind power seems to be coming down quite fast, electricity from Iceland could be substantially cheaper than new offshore wind farms off the British coast.

Claim no.10: IceLink involves the deployment of relatively mature low carbon technologies. As such, it allows GB to reduce reliance on particular domestic technologies, thereby reducing exposure to lower than expected cost reduction trajectories.

  • Correct: Currently, almost all power generation in Iceland comes from mature geothermal- and hydro technology. In the coming years and decades the Icelandic power sector is likely to also start utilizing wind power on land – which is also a mature technology and less problematic than offshore wind power.

The conclusion is that most of the claims set forward by Landsvirkjun, regarding IceLink, are not only correct but also very relevant. However, it is possible that the project could be delayed by Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.

Reykjavík Energy searching for steam

Geothermal developer Reykjavík Energy (Orkuveita Reykjavíkur in Icelandic) is facing problems due to fast declining geothermal wells. To keep up the power generation in its recently constructed 303 MW Hellisheiði Power Station, the company will need to invest close to USD 175 million in geothermal wells in the next six years.

This somewhat serious situation is expressed in a new financial plan for 2017 and forecast for the period 2019-2022, as presented by the company-board of Reykjavík Energy on 3rd of October 2016. Reykjavík Energy (Orkuveita Reykjavíkur; OR) is Iceland’s second largest power company and is the parent company of Orka nátturunnar (ON), which is the power-generating arm of Reykjavík Energy. Reykjavík Energy‘s principal owner is the City of Reykjavík.

665 MW of Geothermal Power

Iceland’s current geothermal capacity is 665 MW. The Hellisheiði station is one of five large geothermal power plants in Iceland. There are additionally two very small geothermal plants, so there are seven geothermal stations in total.

Reykjavík Energy is by far the largest producer of electricity from geothermal sources in Iceland, with two geothermal stations with a combined capacity of 423 MW. Both stations are in the Hellisheiði/Hengill geothermal area in Southwestern Iceland. Privately owned HS Orka operates two geothermal stations at the Reykjanes peninsula, with a total capacity of 175 MW The national power company Landsvirkjun operates two geothermal stations in Northwestern Iceland, with a total power capacity of 63 MW. The five large geothermal stations in Iceland are as follows:

Hellisheiði geothermal station (303 MW), operated by Reykjavík Energy / ON (OR).
Krafla geothermal station (60 MW), operated by Landsvirkjun.
Nesjavellir geothermal station (120 MW), operated by Reykjavík Energy / ON (OR).
Reykjanes geothermal station (100 MW), operated by HS Orka.
Svartsengi geothermal station (77 MW), operated by HS Orka.

In addition, Landsvirkjun is currently constructing the first phase of Þeistareykir geothermal station in Northeast Iceland (45 MW). With a further second phase at Þeistareykir, which is expected to be developed soon after the first phase will be ready, the Þeistareykir plant will have a capacity of 90 MW. And a total cost of EUR 250 million (equivalent to USD 280 million).

Running Out of Steam

Reykjavík Energy does not only plan to drill for more steam for the Hellisheiði geothermal station, but also the company will spend close to USD 44 million during next six years in pumping water back into wells (to uphold steam). Thus, in total it will cost the company close to USD 263 million to withhold the power generation of the Hellisheiði station – during the next six years. It is noteworthy that this amount is almost as high as the total cost of building Landsvirkjun’s new 90 MW Þeistareykir station.

iceland-geothermal-hellisheidi-steamThe falling production at the Hellisheiði geothermal station is a reminder of the risk which developers of geothermal power face. Despite extensive research before construction, it is always very important to limit the risk of possible declining steam by developing geothermal power in fairly small steps. In Iceland, it is now generally accepted that each geothermal step should not be larger than 50-100 MW.

Developing geothermal power in small phases offers important information and data about the field. Such a methodology strengthens predictions of how much energy the area can deliver in a sustainable manner. Unfortunately the 303 MW Hellisheiði project was developed without necessary precaution, resulting in unsustainable generation.

Upcoming power projects in Iceland

The following list explains what power projects are being considered in Iceland, according to the Icelandic Master Plan for Nature Protection and Energy Utilization. The projects have been cost analyzed (levelized cost of energy; LCOE), as described in a recent report published by the Icelandic Energy Industry Association (Samorka).

The projects are classified into three different groups (not all the possibilities have been officially cost-analyzed):

Utilization category: The project is likely to be developed if/when there is power demand and interest by the energy sector.

Projects on hold: More information and/or data is needed to decide if the project will be classified as Utilization or Protection.

Protection category: The project is unlikely to be developed, due to environmental issues.

The current classification is being reconsidered by the government  However, it is the Icelandic Parliament (Alþingi) that takes final decision regarding how each project is categorized. This means that over time, project(s) may be moved from one category to another, based on a political decision by the Parliament. The following classification is up to date as of August 2016. Note that in Samorka’s report on the LCOE, the cheapest option, Norðlingaölduveita, is said to be on hold. In fact this option is currently in the protection category.

 Project name Current  Type MW Annual LCOE
  classification GWh USD/MWh
1 Norðlingaölduveita* Protection Hydro n/a 670 22.50
2 Búlandsvirkjun On hold Hydro 150 1,057 25.00
3 Jökulsárveita/Blönduveita On hold Hydro n/a 100 25.00
4 Urriðafossvirkjun On hold Hydro 140 1,037 25.00
5 Þeistareykir I** and II Utilisation Geothermal 270 2,214 28.90
6 Hrafnabjargavirkjun* On hold Hydro 89 585 30.50
7 Villinganesvirkjun On hold Hydro 33 215 30.50
8 Skrokkölduvirkjun On hold Hydro 45 345 30.50
9 Hólmsárvirkjun* Protection Hydro 72 470 30.50
10 Bjarnarflag Utilisation Geothermal 90 756 35.20
11 Meitillinn Utilisation Geothermal 45 369 35.20
12 Sandfell Utilisation Geothermal 100 820 35.20
13 Sveifluháls Utilisation Geothermal 100 820 35.20
14 Austurengjar On hold Geothermal 100 820 35.20
15 Gjástykki On hold Geothermal 50 420 35.20
16 Trölladyngja On hold Geothermal 100 820 35.20
17 Bitra Protection Geothermal 135 1,100 35.20
18 Brennisteinsfjöll Protection Geothermal 90 711 35.20
19 Hvammsvirkjun Utilisation Hydro 93 270 38.80
20 Búðartunguvirkjun On hold Hydro 27 230 38.80
21 Hagavatnsvirkjun On hold Hydro 20 120 38.80
22 Holtavirkjun On hold Hydro 57 450 38.80
23 Hraunavirkjun* On hold Hydro 126 731 38.80
24 Selfossvirkjun On hold Hydro 35 258 38.80
25 Stóra-Laxárvirkjun Unclassified Hydro 35 200 38.80
26 Tungnaárlón On hold Hydro n/a 70 38.80
27 Bláfellsvirkjun Protection Hydro 89 516 38.80
28 Djúpárvirkjun Protection Hydro 86 499 38.80
29 Markarfljótsvirkjun Protection Hydro 121 702 38.80
30 Gráuhnúkar Utilisation Geothermal 45 369 44.80
31 Eldvörp Utilisation Geothermal 50 410 44.80
32 Hverahlíð Utilisation Geothermal 90 738 44.80
33 Krafla II Utilisation Geothermal 150 1,260 44.80
34 Stóra-Sandvík Utilisation Geothermal 50 410 44.80
35 Botnafjöll On hold Geothermal 90 711 44.80
36 Fremrinámar On hold Geothermal 100 840 44.80
37 Grashagi On hold Geothermal 90 711 44.80
38 Hágönguvirkjun On hold Geothermal 150 1,260 44.80
39 Innstidalur On hold Geothermal 45 369 44.80
40 Sandfell On hold Geothermal 90 711 44.80
41 Þverárdalur On hold Geothermal 90 738 44.80
42 Grændalur Protection Geothermal 120 984 44.80
43 Hverabotn Protection Geothermal 90 711 44.80
44 Kisubotnar Protection Geothermal 90 711 44.80
45 Neðri-Hveradalir Protection Geothermal 90 711 44.80
46 Þverfell Protection Geothermal 90 711 44.80
47 Blanda II Utilisation Hydro 31 194 49.70
48 Hvalárvirkjun Utilisation Hydro 55 320 49.70
49 Austurgilsvirkjun On hold Hydro 35 228 49.70
50 Blöndudalsvirkjun On hold Hydro 16 92 49.70
51 Brúarárvirkjun On hold Hydro 23 133 49.70
52 Hafrálónsárvirkjun efri On hold Hydro 15 87 49.70
53 Hafrálónsárvirkjun neðri On hold Hydro 78 452 49.70
54 Haukholtavirkjun On hold Hydro 17 99 49.70
55 Hestvatnsvirkjun On hold Hydro 34 197 49.70
56 Hofsárvirkjun On hold Hydro 39 226 49.70
57 Hverfisfljótsvirkjun On hold Hydro 42 243 49.70
58 Hvítá við Norðurreyki On hold Hydro 14 82 49.70
59 Kaldbaksvirkjun On hold Hydro 47 273 49.70
60 Kljáfossvirkjun On hold Hydro 16 93 49.70
61 Núpsárvirkjun On hold Hydro 71 412 49.70
62 Reyðarvatnsvirkjun On hold Hydro 14 82 49.70
63 Skatastaðavirkjun* On hold Hydro 156 1,090 49.70
64 Vatnsdalsárvirkjun On hold Hydro 28 162 49.70
65 Gýgarfossvirkjun Protection Hydro 22 128 49.70
66 Bakkahlaup On hold Geothermal 15 119 57.30
67 Hrúthálsavirkjun On hold Geothermal 20 160 57.30
68 Hveravallavirkjun On hold Geothermal 10 79 57.30
69 Reykjabólsvirkjun On hold Geothermal 10 79 57.30
70 Sandfellsvirkjun On hold Geothermal 10 79 57.30
71 Sköflungsvirkjun On hold Geothermal 90 711 57.30
72 Seyðishólavirkjun On hold Geothermal 10 79 57.30
73 Fljótshnjúksvirkjun On hold Hydro 58 405 60.50
74 Vörðufellsvirkjun On hold Hydro 58 174 60.50
75 Glámuvirkjun On hold Hydro 67 400 nyca
76 Arnardalsvirkjun* Protection Hydro 587 3,404 nyca
77 Bjallavirkjun Protection Hydro 46 310 nyca
78 Blöndulundur Unclassified Wind 200 705 nyca
79 Búrfellslundur Unclassified Wind 100 350 nyca

 

Notes:
* The project may be developed in a different way for less environmental impacts, resulting in lower generation.
** 45 MW station at Þeistareykir is already under construction, with the electricity sold (long-term contract).
n/a Projects involving new reservoir for current power stations (turbines may be added, but not necessarily).
nyca Projects that have not yet been officially cost-analyzed.

———————————————————————————-

The list above may change at any time and new projects not listed may be introduced and developed.

Planned 45 MW wind power project of Biokraft in Southern Iceland is not included on the list.

No planned power projects under 10 MW (mainly small hydro) are included on the list.

Cost estimates do not include transmission or connection cost.

The list is up to date @ August 2016.

The wish-list of the Icelandic energy industry

Iceland may offer numerous new renewable energy projects where levelized cost of energy (LCOE) is very low. Or as low as 22.50 USD/MWh.

The weighted average cost (LCOE) for all new projects in Iceland needed to meet increased power demand until 2035, could be as low as 26.93 USD/MWh. This can be seen from a new report published by the Icelandic Energy Industry Association (Samorka). However, to realize such a low LCOE the Icelandic energy industry would have to be able to develop several projects that are currently not classified for development/utilization. When only taking into account projects already classified for utilization, the LCOE is substantially higher or 34.41 USD/MWh. Note that those figures are an estimation by contractors working for the Icelandic Energy Industry Association, and are based on cost-information from the Icelandic National Energy Agency (NEA).

LCOE for Projects in Utilization Category is 34 USD/MWh

The Icelandic government has adopted a special Master Plan for Nature Protection and Energy Utilization, where possible new hydro- and geothermal power projects are classified into three categories. The categories are protection, on-hold, and utilization. Many of the possible new energy projects have not made it into the utilization category.

Iceland-New-Power-Projects-Utilization-Category_Askja-Energy-Partners_August-2016The table at left lists the lowest-cost hydro- and geothermal power projects planned by the Icelandic government to be realized, currently classified in utilization category. Some of these projects have substantial higher LCOE than the lowest-cost projects not categorized for utilization. Note that the list is not absolute; for example the Eldvörp project may be developed before the Gráuhnjúkar project.

As can be seen on the table, the weighted average LCOE for all projects already categorized for utilization, needed to meet increased domestic demand until 2035, is close to 34 USD/MWh. Which probably explains why Icelandic energy companies are now, according to sources within the industry, offering new long-term power contracts where the tariffs are as low as 34-35 USD/MWh (common unofficial starting tariff; the advertised tariff is 43 USD/MWh).

Different Classifications May Offer LCOE as Low as 27 USD/MWh

Being able to offer new power contracts with a starting price close to 34 USD/MWh, may be quite competitive having regard to the international power market. However, Icelandic energy firms are eager to be able to develop projects that have even lower LCOE. Thus, the industry hopes to have several low-cost projects re-classified by the Icelandic parliament (Alþingi).

Iceland-New-Power-Projects-Wish-List_Askja-Energy-Partners_-Twitter-August-2016To reach the lower LCOE of 26.93 USD/MWh, several projects need to be re-classified. Meaning low-cost projects that are now classified as protection or on-hold, would be re-classified as projects in utilization category. This is illustrated on the table at below.

If the energy industry will be able to convince the Icelandic government and parliament to move certain possible projects from the categories of protection and on-hold, to the utilization category, the levelized cost of new generation needed until 2035 may drop from approximately USD 34 USD/MWh to close to only 27 USD/MWh (meaning almost 20% lower cost). So, the projects listed on the table at left can be said to reflect the wish-list of the Icelandic energy industry (the industry hoping to have all these projects listed for utilization).

With IceLink LCOE Could be Somewhere Between 28-37 USD/MWh

The two tables above also illustrate how different selection of projects affect the LCOE when/if the IceLink subsea power cable between Iceland and United Kingdom (UK) will be realized. If power will be exported from Iceland to UK, Icelandic generation naturally needs to increase more than without IceLink (as we have explained earlier here at the Icelandic and Northern Energy Portal). Depending  on which projects will/would be developed with IceLink, the LCOE for new traditional hydro- and geothermal projects could be as low as 28.49 USD/MWh (note that the overall LCOE for all the generation needed for IceLink would be higher, as it is expected that close to 550 MW of wind power would also be developed in Iceland to fulfill the demand of the cable). To reach such a low target for LCOE, 28.49 USD/MWh, the Icelandic energy industry would have to have its wish-list, as shown on the second table, accepted by the Icelandic authorities.

Holmsa-Axlarfoss

Having regard to projects currently categorized for utilization in the Master Plan, the LCOE will be much higher (with IceLink) than the said 28.49 USD/MWh. The LCOE for new traditional hydro- and geothermal stations currently categorized for utilization and needed for IceLink, is expected to be 37.21 USD/MWh (as can be seen on the first table above). Which is close to 30% more than the low-cost options on the wish-list. Thus the Icelandic government and politicians now face difficult and controversial decisions how to balance the economics and environmental issues, when deciding if changes will be made to the Master Plan. It is expected that a new version of the Master Plan may be adopted by the Parliament (Alþingi) even before the end of this year (2016).

Almost 1,000 MW of new large hydro- and geothermal power plants until 2035

If IceLink subsea HVDC power cable will be constructed, it is expected that totally 954 MW of new traditional large hydro- and geothermal plants will be needed in Iceland. These power plants would be constructed during the next two decades.

IceLink-Kvika-Poyry_New-Power-Stations_Askja-Energy-Partners-Twitter-_July-2016According to the Icelandic Master Plan for Nature Protection and Energy Utilization, the Icelandic government would most likely fulfill the increased demand by permitting the development of twelve new large hydro- and geothermal projects (as listed on the table at left). These are two hydropower projects and ten geothermal projects (or nine projects if Þeistareykir I and II would be defined as one project).

The ten geothermal projects are Þeistareykir I and Þeystareykir II in NE-Iceland, Bjarnarflag and Krafla II in NE-Iceland (Krafla I was constructed almost 40 years ago), Gráuhnúkar and Meitillinn in the Hengill geothermal area in SW-Iceland, Eldvörp and Stóra-Sandvík on the Reykjanes peninsula in SW-Iceland, and Sandfell and Sveifluháls in the Krýsuvík area in SW-Iceland. The two hydropower projects would be Blanda II in NE-Iceand and Hvammsvirkjun in Þjórsá in S-Iceland.

Eldvorp-Geothermal-Area-IcelandAll these twelve projects are already defined in utilization-category in the Master Plan for Nature Protection and Energy Utilization. However, some of these projects are somewhat costly to develop when compared to all possible energy projects in Iceland (which means there are several cheaper options available, although today they are not classified as utilization-projects, by either classified as protected or on hold).

Recently, the Icelandic Energy Industry Organization and some of the power companies in Iceland started pushing for changes of the Master Plan, to have the Icelandic government and the parliament (Alþingi) to include several other lower-cost projects in the utilization-category (we will soon explain the cost-issues further, here at the Independent Icelandic and Northern Energy Portal). As several of the cheapest options for harnessing more hydro- or geothermal power are in environmentally sensitive areas, there will without doubt be strong opposition against major changes of the Master Plan.

IceLink-Kvika-Poyry_Increase-in-Power-Generation_2015-2035_Askja-Energy-Partners-Table-Portal_July-2016If/when the IceLink project will go through, the total Icelandic power generation will have to increase enormously. Most of the new generation, or 7,400 GWh of the total increase of 12,800 GWh in annual production. would be added as exported power to the UK. In this same period (2015-2035) Icelandic general consumption of electricity is expected to increase by 1,700 GWh and power consumption by heavy industries in Iceland is expected to increase by 3,700 GWh. In total, Icelandic electricity generation would thus increase 68 percent in the period 2015-2035. For more on this subject, we refer to the table at left, and our earlier post from last July 22nd.

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