Probably Iceland’s most famous hot springs are the Blue Lagoon, which is located close to the capital Reykjavik, Landmannalaugar
The Secret Lagoon and Kerlingafjöll are others where people can bathe, but there are literally hundreds of others that are not only an attraction for visitors to the country but have become critical in the energy security of the country as it deals with the issues of climate change. It is thanks to these hot springs that Iceland has moved from being dependent on oil to using the renewable energy from hydropower to obtain 80 per cent of its electricity. The other 20 per cent comes from underground geothermal fields. These same fields also provide locals with their own bathing pools, as well as an almost limitless and inexpensive supply of natural hot water. The downside of Iceland’s hot springs is the smell from sulphur dioxide.
For most Icelanders, it is just the smell of the hot water when having a shower, but when it is strong, it really does smell as bad as rotten eggs. The water is not toxic but is not recommended for drinking.
Iceland has no national grid for electricity. The sourcing of energy is very much simpler. Energy from any of the country’s 600 hot springs comes from the steam each release, which turns turbines which pump up water that is then piped to nearby settlements. It is this geothermal water that heats about 90 per cent of Iceland's homes, and keeps pavements and car parks snow-free in the winter. Hot water from the springs is also cooled and pumped from boreholes that vary between 200m and 5km in depth, directly into the taps of nearby homes, so there is no need for hot water heating. It's also purified and cooled to provide cold drinking water. Not everywhere in Iceland uses geothermal water for heating. Some areas, like the Reykjanes Peninsula, use heated ground water that can be used in food and drink, though in Reykjavík, it is not recommended.
The diversion of geothermal energy to fuel homes in Iceland began in 1907, when a farmer in west Iceland took steam from a hot spring that ran below his farm through a concrete pipe and into his house several metres higher.
Some years later, another farmer became the first Icelander to use hot spring water for heating. An extensive distribution of hot water to heat homes began in the capital in 1930. From this point on, many people used a geothermal heat pump system to take advantage of the constant temperature of the upper ten feet (three metres) of the Earth’s surface to heat a home in the winter, while extracting heat from the building and transferring it back to the relatively cooler ground in the summer. In the 1940s the State Electricity Authority was started by the government in order to increase knowledge about geothermal resources and how geothermal power could be used more widely across Iceland. Later known as the National Energy Authority, the agency became very successful in making it economically viable to use geothermal energy as a source for heating in many different areas throughout the country and launched several geothermal industries
We never know the worth of water till the well is dry. Thomas Fuller
Despite extensive research, Icelanders were gaining 75 per cent of their energy from coal until the energy crisis of the 1970s. The rising costs saw the Icelandic government pour more money into researching hydropower and geothermal heat as well as searching for new geothermal resource areas
When the oil crisis waned, the Icelandic government continued to invest in renewable energy development, the benefits of which are being felt today. Today, geothermal water from deeper in the Earth is being used directly for heating homes and offices, but also in cities where installations now pipe geothermal hot water under roads and sidewalks to melt snow, all possible without burning a fossil fuel such as coal, gas, or oil. The power plants also only release about one-sixth of the carbon dioxide that a relatively clean natural-gas-fueled power plant produces. Unlike solar and wind energy, geothermal energy is always available, every day of the year and being relatively inexpensive, the savings from direct use can be as much as 80 per cent over fossil fuels.
The financial savings from using renewable energy has transformed Iceland from one of the poorest to one of the most productive countries in the world with regards to GDP per capita and quality of life rankings.
This is likely to improve further as only roughly 30 percent of the potential geothermal energy that could be used to produce electricity in Iceland, has been harnessed to date, which means there is potential for Iceland to provide for the energy needs of its neighbours. Geothermal energy has been used in Iceland’s aluminium manufacturing sector in the smelting process, as well as in the processing and production of salt, seaweed, pet food and fish farms and to heat the greenhouses that grow the island's fruit, vegetables and flowers. The tourism economy has also benefited, with more people coming to visit and bathe in the hot springs. As there is no means of exporting this energy, Iceland is attracting more industries to that can exploit this green and cheap energy, particularly in the field of data storage centres, not just because the energy costs are low, but because the building design ensures that energy requirements are about 60 per cent less than a conventional data centre, which means less carbon tax, whilst there is plenty of land and a country politically secure and computer literate