Isolated rural ag business in Iceland
REYKJAVIK, Iceland—Agricultural related industry located in the rural lava fields of Iceland was on the agenda for touring on March 7. The fish hatchery that grows tons of Arctic charr fish and the greenhouse for growing genetically modified barley as a complex protein media for use in medical research were two major exploratory stops for North American and European journalists.
The morning began with attendance of the Iceland Geothermal Conference in Reykjavik before traveling to the countryside for the afternoon. Jay Natwani, U.S. Department of Energy, provided an explanation to the conference of the U.S. government’s incentives for development of geothermal energy.
He outlined several financial incentive programs of grants, loans and awards. His contention is that geothermal is a high risk program in the initial stages of development, and many companies are not able to receive investor or bank money to proceed. Because geothermal development as a renewable fuel is in the public’s interest, U.S. government money should be invested just as U.S. money is invested in grain ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, wind energy or biodiesel.
“Geothermal development looks flat today, but we are developing a technology base; we are providing incentives. If we can solve, now, the next technology hurdle of EGS (enhanced geothermal systems), our future is really bright,” said Natwani.
He noted one area of interest is the hot water being a co-product of oil wells. “In the United States, there are thousands and thousands of oil and gas wells. According to EGS, each and every gallon of oil we produce there are 10 gallons of hot or warm water produced from those wells,” he said.
Researchers are hard at work demonstrating and developing technology for use of this “low temperature geothermal resource” for generating electricity. He mentioned a project in Alaska where 165 degree Fahrenheit water has been used in a demonstration to produce electricity.
Also on the program with Natwani was Gunnar Tryggvason with KMPG mainly talking about the potential for Iceland earning a high income by exporting its energy to Europe via connector cables at the bottom of the ocean.
In his presentation, a comment repeated by more than one Icelander who spoke to me, related to the government’s official policy: “Iceland’s energy needs will be met in a sustainable way, for the benefit of the people and society.” The comment was, “whatever that really means.”