The interplay of nature and energy generation
The initial assessment of a power project requires good quality information in order to develop design proposals for individual power stations and to minimise any environmental impact.
Each power project is preceded by many years of research and the projects are defined according to feasibility, sustainability and the minimisation of environmental impact. Landsvirkjun assessed twenty power projects in 2015. A number of these proposed power projects offer the potential for increased energy efficiency alongside increased protection.
Iceland has an effective framework for the further utilisation and protection of land areas, based on three key factors: The Master Plan for Hydro and Geothermal Energy, Environmental Impact Assessments and planning legislation. All of these tools are designed to assess if the potential negative environmental impact of any proposed power stations outweighs the benefits. Power projects affect nature, highland areas and residential areas. There are numerous opportunities in renewable energy and electricity generation in Iceland. This is not the case in other parts of Europe where most energy options have been exhausted.
“We can protect all of our most important natural habitats and substantially increase electricity generation. Renewable energy and environmental protection do not have to be at odds with each other.”
Hörður Arnarson, CEO of Landsvirkjun, at the Annual Meeting in 2015
Knowing your environment
Review of the Environmental Impact Assessment for the Hvammur Hydropower Project
The Hvammur Hydropwer Project was moved from the ‘under consideration’ category in the Master Plan for Hydro and Geothermal Energy Resources to the ‘appropriate for development’ category in a parliamentary resolution put forward in 2015. Preparation measures and research for the Hvammur project has been underway for years. Landsvirkjun has placed a great emphasis on mitigation measures to minimise the negative environmental impact of the power project (especially on fish stock in the area).
The proposed Hvammur Hydropower Station will utilise the head from the Þjórsá River just above the farm Hagi and below the Ölmóðsey Islet to the east of Þjórsárholt.
An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was carried out in 2003 and has been valid since then. However, construction did not commence within a decade of the release of the report and this meant that the Icelandic National Planning Agency was legally required to assess the need for a partial or complete review of the EIA. The Agency concluded that the impact of development on the landscape, visual impact and implications for tourism and recreation should be reviewed.
Work on the review is now underway. Other parts of the Environmental Impact Assessment remain valid. The first step in the review process is to prepare a scoping document, outlining arrangements for the evaluation of the potential impact of the aforementioned factors. A draft proposal for the scoping document was presented and received feedback. The final proposal for the scoping document is expected at the beginning of April 2016.