21/3/2016

New small and medium hydropower plants under preparation in the Westfjords in Iceland

Verkís is currently conducting preliminary design of the Hvalávirkjun hydropower plant. Other new small and medium hydropower plants are under preparation in the Westfjords in Iceland. 

In addition to providing potentially up to 150 to 200 MW of power to the national grid, they could ideally contribute to enhancing security of power supply in this part of the country. The Environmental Impact Assessment process is currently ongoing for the largest of these power plants, the Hvalá HEP. The power plant will harness power from the Hvalá river in Ófeigsfjorður fjord and the neighboring river Eyvindarfjarðará. The power plant is fed by rain and snowmelt from the northern part of Ófeigsfjarðarheiði highland´s watershed between 300 and 500 m.a.s.l, and even up to 700 m a.s.l at the eastern tip of Drangajökull glacier.  Other projects, located at the northern shore of Isafjarðardjúp bay that harness the southern part of the Ófeigsfjarðarheiði highlands are also under preparation, namely Austurgilsvirkjun HEP and Skúfnavatnavirkjun HEP. Those additional schemes, if realized, will make it more economic to extend the national transmission grid to that insulated part of the country. In addition several other possible projects south of the Ísafjarðardjúp bay will benefit from the connection.   

Verkís conducted a review of pre-feasibility study for the Hvalávirkjun in 2013. The project was the one of the two hydropower projects ranked in the “energy utilization category” by the parliament after the second phase of the Master Plan for Nature Protection and Energy Utilization in the spring of 2013. The Environmental Impact Assessment process for Hvalá HEP began in early 2015 and will soon be completed with final recommendation issued by the National Planning Agency expected this spring.

As potential for large hydropower scheme in Iceland are diminishing, small and medium plants will contribute to a larger share of the increased energy generation in the future. Many individuals, land owners and private investors together with the conventional governmental energy utilities are now focusing on these opportunities. Assessment of other potential sites, including several promising sites in North East Iceland, is currently ongoing with consulting support from Verkís.