Port of Call
Reykjavik, Iceland: The Power of Renewables, Jul 7, 2012
Participants explore the Ellidaar hydro-electric power plant
With a population of only 320,000 people, Iceland generates five times more energy from renewable sources than it needs. Reykjavik, literally translating to "The bay where the steam comes out", is Iceland's major city, and has an abundance of clean energy. Writer and activist, Andri Magnason and historian Stefan Palsson guided Peace Boat participants around Reykjavik, to various power generating facilities. Their purpose was to deliver an understanding of the transition process that Icelandic people and governments have undertaken in order to establish and continue the use of renewable energy production throughout the country.

In the nearby town of Toppstodin, participants visited the inside of an old coal fire power plant, which is slowly being transformed into a creative centre. During the recent economic crisis, many people lost their jobs, and so it was decided to turn the space into a gallery. People who worked as designers and architects, among others, also use the old power station as a workshop area to run lectures, and to encourage people to think creatively about, for example, what could be done with old nuclear power stations in Japan.

A short bus ride away was the Ellidaar hydro-electric power plant. The plant was built over a period of time in order to keep up with the energy demands of the growing population, and now shuts down during the summer when the demands for power for heating and lighting are less. The river used in the hydro-electric energy production is a breeding ground for salmon. When the plant was previously used during the summer, the fish were caught, put into the back of a truck and returned to the top of the river to limit the impact that the plant had on the surrounding environment and nature.

<> The Icelandic Horticultural College, in the town of Hveragerdi, is home to many greenhouses that are heated through geothermal energy
Arguably the most interesting form of energy that the participants learned about during the programme was geothermal energy. Peace Boat participants visited the Icelandic Horticultural College, in the town of Hveragerdi, where they saw the results of this extraordinary energy with their own eyes. The college is home to many greenhouses that are heated through geothermal energy. It is one of the biggest banana productions in Europe, and is one of the few places in the world where tomatoes are grown all year round. Appearing as a mini rainforest, the fresh smell of plants and flowers greeted the delighted participants as they entered the greenhouse.

Participants observe their lunch being cooked with geothermal energy
One of the major highlights of the day was not just the taste of lunch at Kjot and Kunst, but the way it was cooked using geothermal energy. Across the road, in the same town of Hveragerdi, which is built on top of an old volcanic magma chamber, the group explored a geothermal park to see where this geothermal energy comes from. Participants were warned to be careful not to burn themselves with the boiling hot waters as they walked through the park, such is the power produced by these geothermal springs.

The group explored a geothermal park that is built on top of an old volcanic magma chamber
After visiting the park, Helgi Petursson, accompanied the group to Hellisheioi, a geothermal power plant. The impressively built plant is one of six in Iceland. Geothermal energy has been used in Iceland for the past 80 years, and 93% of all households in are powered in this way. "It is an unlimited, self-sustaining resource for a clean living earth." said Mr Petursson. "The only concern is the depletion of groundwater, as 1,800 litres per second is taken out." Even with this concern, geothermal energy stands out a realistic option as an energy source for those countries like Iceland that lie on the edges of tectonic plates. Geothermal resources can be found worldwide, throughout Asia, African, European and Latin American countries.

Hellisheioi geothermal power plant, one of six in Iceland, has recently been visited by members of Japan's parliament.
Japan is one of those countries for which geothermal energy should be a serious option. Members of the Japanese Diet recently been visited Hellisheioi power plant. They were searching for alternatives to nuclear energy in Japan after the accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant on March 11, 2011. The accident brought home to many people in Japan the dangers of nuclear power and the need for alternative sources. Prior to arriving in Iceland, participants onboard the 76th voyage had been discussing the dangers of nuclear energy and searching for alternatives onboard the ship with guest educator Tanaka Yu. For many participants on this programme, geothermal energy was just the solution they had been searching for. Nuclear power is a high risk form of energy production no matter where it takes place, but the geology of Japan and the frequency of earthquakes makes the nuclear option even more of a risk than in other countries. It is often argued that Japan has no natural resources, so must depend on nuclear power to be energy independent. After learning about geothermal energy in Iceland it was clear to participants that Japan's geology was a huge natural resource.

A highlight for Peace Boat participants was the Blue Lagoon, a luxurious natural spa, heated by geothermal energy
For a relaxing end to the day, the Blue Lagoon was the final stop for participants. Heated through geothermal energy, the luxurious natural spa, filled with minerals that are beneficial to the skin, was a major highlight for the group. Hot springs like this are a common feature of life in Japan where they are called 'onsen'. After almost two months at sea, many participants from Japan were delighted to have the chance to visit an 'onsen' and take time to relax. "It was so tranquil and soothing." said one participant. While the Japanese population have taken advantage of geothermal with the many onsen resorts that can be found throughout the country, after one day in Iceland it was obvious that geothermal energy had much more potential than a relaxing spa. "The Japanese government, and we as citizens, need to figure this out!" said one Peace Boat participant, enthusiastic about the potential of geothermal energy in Japan.