Iceland is Tapping into the World’s Hottest Hole for Geothermal Energy

Iceland is drilling the world’s hottest hole on the planet to generate electricity. But before we get into the how and why and where, let’s dive in deeper to what geothermal energy actually is.

Geothermal energy has been around a long time. It’s a renewable energy source that uses the Earth’s heat. This heat beneath earth’s surface can be harnessed as steam or hot water to power turbines for the generation of electricity. Magma in the earth’s outer core heats up rock and water, which is where the source of geothermal energy comes from, and can be found in areas where volcanos and earthquakes are found. Other sources useful for harnessing the earth’s heat are geysers and hot springs.

But Iceland’s attempt to tap into the liquid magma for producing electricity is the big headline. No one has ever before drilled as far down as to use the liquid magma reservoirs for heat. Instead, the usual method of using hot rock and water just beneath earth’s surface is how geothermal energy is captured. To compare, the magma is able to create heat from 400-1000 degrees celsius, which can produce 10 times more electricity than one typical geothermal well. That’s enough electricity to power 50,000 homes! (Your average geothermal well can produce enough electricity for 5,000 homes.)

So how was this idea approached? By mistake of course! The Iceland Deep Drilling Project (IDDP) was in the process of drilling an average geothermal well when they struck the hot liquid magma reservoir 1.25 miles down. Just as an experiment, they poured water into the hole, creating this powerfully heated steam of temps higher than 400 degrees celsius. This super-steam generated 30 MW of electricity! Soon after, the idea to drill a 3 mile hole in Reykjanes, a southwest region of Iceland, to harness the liquid magma for the production of electricity came to fruition.

Iceland is powered almost 100% by renewable sources, with about 75% hydropower and 25% geothermal energy. If the IDDP can tap into liquid magma and successfully produce significantly higher amounts of energy, these figures could possibly change in the future. By the end of this year, the IDDP is hoping to be finished their hottest hole on Earth to power more homes, and make even bigger headlines.