Sustainable Iceland: The Preview
By Bill Moore
Did you know they grow bananas in Iceland? Or that they heat their entire capital city of Reykjavik, which means ‘smoky harbor' in ancient Norse, with volcanic steam? Or that all the bauxite used to make aluminum in Iceland's booming smelter industry comes from Australia, half a world a way?
Those are just a few of the insights a group of American and European journalists gleaned from an event-packed trip to this North Atlantic island halfway between North America and Europe. Where Iceland was only an abstraction for many of us, it is now a tangible reality of names and faces and dramatic places from roaring Gullfoss Falls to Culture House to the Pearl Restaurant to Shell's hydrogen fueling station to the incredible Blue Lagoon.
In the coming days and weeks, we'll be writing about this remarkable nation and its determined drive to become the world's first "hydrogen economy" by 2020 using its abundant hydroelectric and geothermal energy resources. But to help set the stage -- much like a movie trailer -- and to give me time to organize my impressions, we offer our readers a short photographic diary of the General Motor's-sponsored trip that began when we landed at Keflavik airport early Tuesday morning, May 16th and ended with our departure on the 18th.
GM organizers made sure we had a full schedule of meetings, presentations, dinners and sight seeing that included a trip to a geothermal power plant and a short hike along the rife valley that separates the North Atlantic tectonic plate from the European plate, the only such spot on the planet not submerged under the Atlantic Ocean.
I trust you'll find my photos and commentaries of interest. A big thank you to Scott, Britta, Robert, Chris and Sara for a fantastic journey into the past, the present and the future of energy in Iceland.
DaimlerChrysler fuel cell bus, one of three in active service in Reykjavik. This one has more than 42,000 km of service on it and only after 2200 hours of operation has its Ballard fuel cell stacks begun to show some degradation. The three buses will remain in service through 2006, when it is hoped that new, improved models will be introduced.
Picturesque Hafnarfjördur west of Reykjavik. Iceland's economy is largely driven by three industries: tourism, aluminum smelting and fishing. There are some 2000 registered marine vessels in Iceland, some 100 of them large freezer trawlers that both catch and process fish. All of them are dependent on petroleum diesel fuel. Storing sufficient hydrogen onboard without major hull modifications is a challenge, one being addressed by researchers at Reykjavik University.
Old seems to easily blend with the new in Reykjavik where traditional homes clad in galvanized sheeting stand next to modern, high-rise apartments and office towers. This red door on the side of a gabled home in downtown Reykjavik appears to go nowhere.
Iceland's Minister of Industry and Commerce, Valgerður Sverrisdóttir, being interviewed by local media. The minister addressed the GM-led delegation of international journalists at Culture House and then drove the General Motors HydroGEN3 fuel cell research vehicle, which the carmaker had flown in from Washington, D.C. for the occasion. The next day, I got to take the car for a quick drive.
Spiral staircases seem to hold a special fascination for Icelanders; they seem to be everywhere. This one is in the Nordica Hotel where the delegation stayed. The hotel has a glorious view of the harbor and is surrounded by at least five geothermal wells that provide district heating.
The trip offered a lot of opportunities for journalists like Fabio Orecchini from Rome to interact with local officials, in this case the effervescent Maria Hildur Maack, the environmental manager for Islensk Ny Orka, Iceland New Energy, the organization guiding the drive towards a petroleum-free, sustainable energy economy in Iceland.
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