Science Buzz

Iceland is harnessing the power of magma

Volcano erupting in Iceland

Since August 2016, engineers in southwestern Iceland have been slowly drilling into the earth at a geothermal facility nicknamed Thor. The initiative, known the Iceland Deep Drilling Project (IDDP), has been boring down into ancient volcanic lava flows in Reykjanes, Iceland. These flows overlay the mid-Atlantic Ridge, the tectonic boundary separating the North American and Eurasian plates where magma bubbles close to the surface.

If the drill can penetrate to a depth of 5 kms, it’ll reach “supercritical steam”, water that has been heated by magma to temperatures of up to 1,000ºC. Once completed, the drilled hole will not only have the distinction of being the hottest on Earth, but will also power the world’s most powerful geothermal well.

The energy potential in this lava-heated steam is enormous. It is estimated that a single one of these deep, hot wells could have a capacity of 50 megawatts, ten times higher than a typical shallow geothermal well, and enough to power 50,000 homes.

Iceland has already eliminated fossil fuels from its grid, which runs entirely on hydropower and geothermal energy.