Environmental Report 2014

Spila myndskeið

Energy generation in consensus with society and in harmony with the environment

Landsvirkjun is owned by the Icelandic state and generates electricity by using renewable energy sources such as water, geothermal energy and wind energy. Landsvirkjun’s operations have an inevitable effect on the environment as the construction of power stations and human intervention can affect the ecosystem and society. Landsvirkjun is committed to utilising energy resources in a sustainable manner and to generating energy in consensus with society and in harmony with the environment.

“Requirements with regard to environmental matters are increasing rapidly and Landsvirkjun has outlined a policy to remain at the forefront of these matters.”

Hörður Arnarson, CEO

CEO's Message


Landsvirkjun’s Environmental Policy

Landsvirkjun consistently strives to minimise the negative impact of its operations by conducting extensive research and monitoring and by following a clear environmental policy. The Policy has five components:

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    1. Landsvirkjun is at the forefront of environmental aspects and supports sustainable development within society.
  • Minni úrgangur
    2. Landsvirkjun is committed to increasing expertise and monitoring on the environmental impact of its operations and purposefully seeks out measures to reduce this. The Company strives to do better and therefore continually monitors certain environmental aspects with a view to consistently improving its efforts.
  • Minni losun gróðurhúsalofttegunda
    3. Landsvirkjun ensures that every legal requirement relating to the environment is fulfilled and sets more stringent requirements upon the Company, as appropriate.
  • Betri nýting auðlinda
    4. Landsvirkjun ensures that its employees and all contractors employed by the Company have the expertise and ability to adhere to the Company’s Environmental Policy.
  • Umgengni í sátt við lífríki og náttúru
    5. Landsvirkjun’s environmental objectives are open to the public. The Company outlines its progress in environmental matters and in doing so supports open and constructive dialogue on these matters.

The monitoring and control of environmental factors

Landsvirkjun places an emphasis on acquiring the necessary expertise to gain information on various environmental aspects. The Company monitors the impact of its operations and strives to minimise any effects on the environment. Significant environmental aspects within Landsvirkjun’s operations are monitored and the ‘control methods’ are defined. Environmental aspects are divided into three main categories: Natural resources, emissions, effluents, waste and the natural environment and visual aspects.

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  • 1 Utilising the water reserve

    Landsvirkjun utilises the natural water resource in the most efficient manner possible at all of its power stations. The water used for electricity generation mostly originates from Icelandic glaciers and is stored in reservoirs. The water is then channelled to Landsvirkjun’s power stations where it is used to generate electricity. Landsvirkjun conducts extensive research on glaciers with a particular focus on long-term changes and ablation levels in glaciers that provide the water reserve for Landsvirkjun’s power stations.
  • 2 Water management

    Electricity generation involves channelling the water flow from the Company’s main reservoirs to the power stations, creating energy and maximising the utilisation of this water reserve. Water steering reduces fluctuations in water flow and water levels in reservoirs which can have a negative effect on the ecosystem, soil and society. Landsvirkjun strives to reduce sudden fluctuations in water levels and has set a framework pertaining to restrictions on water flow.
  • 3 Groundwater utilisation: cold water

    Landvirkjun utilises groundwater in its operations for general use and to cool equipment used in geothermal energy production. Groundwater is one of the most important natural resources in Iceland and Landsvirkjun monitors groundwater extraction with the aim of ensuring the ongoing sustainable utilisation of the resource.
  • 4 Geothermal utilisation

    Electricity is generated by using geothermal heat in high-temperature fields. During the utilisation process, geothermal fluid is extracted from the boreholes, which is composed of steam, water and the various gases present in the steam. Steam is extracted from the geothermal fluid via a steam separator and effluent water is then disposed of by releasing it at the surface or by re-injecting it deep into the geothermal reservoir. Extraction can have an effect on various factors within the geothermal area including pressure levels within the geothermal reservoir, geothermal surface activity and seismic activity. Landsvirkjun monitors and controls the extraction of geothermal fluid and monitors the impact of geothermal utilisation as well as monitoring various wells. A geothermal model is used to provide an overview of the effects of utilisation and assesses the status of the system. It also calculates the distribution of mass and energy within the system.
  • 5 Hazardous materials

    Hazardous materials are defined as such because of their potentially dangerous effects on organisms and humans. Substances with hazardous labelling are substances that fall under the regulations on sorting, labelling and the handling of hazardous materials and hazardous products. Landsvirkjun uses these substances for cleaning purposes, in factories and for various research and development purposes. Landsvirkjun registers its use of all hazardous materials and aims to reduce their use as much as possible.
  • 6 Purchasing

    Actively choosing environmentally labelled goods and services can have a significant effect on reducing the environmental impact of operations. Landsvirkjun became a founding member of the Green Public Procurement program (VINN) in December, 2014. VINN is a forum for collaboration on green procurement led by the Ministry for the Environment and Natural Resources. The aim of the initiative is increasing the percentage of environmentally friendly goods purchased by the Company.
  • 7 Fuel

    Fossil fuels are a non-renewable resource and the burning of fossil fuel leads to the release of greenhouse gases (GHG‘s) and other substances that are a health risk. Landsvirkjun is committed to minimising the emission of GHG‘s by reducing the consumption of fossil fuels in its operations. Landsvirkjun also monitors the handling of fossil fuels ensuring that transport, storage and refuelling measures do not harm the ecosystem and the natural environment. Landsvirkjun registers all fossil fuel consumption in its operations and releases information on GHG emissions as a result of consumption.
  • 8 Electricity and hot water utilisation

    The electricity and the hot water utilised in Iceland are both sourced from renewable energy resources such as hydropower and geothermal energy. Landsvirkjun mostly utilises the electricity produced by its own power stations but purchases electricity and hot water for other purposes including usage at its offices and storage units. Landsvirkjun is committed to utilising all resources in an effective manner and electricity and water utilisation is monitored with the aim of preventing any unnecessary waste of these resources.
  • 9 Gases from geothermal stations

    Geothermal fluid, a blend of steam, geothermal water and geothermal gases, is extracted from boreholes during the utilisation process. The gas is mainly composed of carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulphide and hydrogen. Carbon dioxide causes GHG emissions and hydrogen sulphide can corrode equipment and can be a health risk. Landsvirkjun records the quantity and composition of gases released from geothermal power stations and releases information on GHG emissions and hydrogen sulphide concentration levels in the atmosphere from the same source.
  • 10 Reservoir emissions

    Vegetation and soil submerged by reservoirs decomposes into organic matter which emits GHGs, carbon dioxide, methane and N2O. Landsvirkjun has conducted research on GHG emissions from its reservoirs and this information is registered and accessible. GHG emissions vary between reservoirs and different areas. The most significant indicator is the total amount of vegetation and organic matter submerged in each case.
  • 11 SF6 emissions from electrical equipment

    Sulfur Hexafluoride (SF6) is used as an isolation material for electrical equipment. SF6 is one of the most potent GHGs known. Pure SF6 is not poisonous but its by-products can have a negative impact on health. Landsvirkjun monitors SF6 leakage from electrical equipment and information on emissions is registered and accessible.
  • 12 Condensate and separated water

    Condensate and separated water contains heavy metals and nutrients which mostly originate from geothermal fluid. The natural concentration of this can vary between areas and can amongst other things be dependent on volcanic activity and the chemical composition of groundwater. Surface disposal can have an effect on the ecosystem if concentration levels are high. The impact of condensate and separated water on the environment can be reduced by reinjecting condensate and separated water back into the system. However, surface disposal is sometimes necessary. Landsvirkjun monitors condensate and separated water levels and their possible impact on the water system and ecosystem.
  • 13 Effluents

    Landsvirkjun’s effluent consists of all runoff water containing suspended particles. This includes runoff water from drilling platforms, tunnel excavation, parking area, factories and storage facilities as well as sewage from power stations and work camps. Sedimentation tanks, oil separators and septic tanks all serve a purpose in reducing the environmental impact of effluents by separating pollutants from the water. The efficiency of this equipment is closely monitored and tanks are regularly emptied by authorised disposal experts.
  • 14 General waste

    The landfilling of waste results in the anaerobic decomposition of its organic content, emitting GHGs that contribute to climate change. Landsvirkjun is committed to increasing recycling and reuse in its operations which will reduce the quantity of waste disposed of via landfill. The Company is active in creating areas for waste sorting and waste storage in all of its operational areas and a record is kept on waste disposal.
  • 15 Hazardous waste

    There are specific regulations and requirements pertaining to the disposal of containers and surplus materials labelled as hazardous materials. Hazardous waste can be flammable, irritant, corrosive and hazardous to health and the environment. All hazardous waste from Landsvirkjun’s operational areas are collected and stored in special containers. The quantity is recorded and handed over to an authorised disposal expert.
  • 16 Noise

    Noise from Landsvirkjun’s operations primarily stems from active geothermal wells and from wind turbines. Noise levels can affect the enjoyment of nature and constant noise can have a detrimental effect on health. Landvirkjun monitors noise levels and reduces noise by using mufflers/silencers on all well heads at its geothermal power stations.
  • 17 Forestry and land-reclamation

    Landsvirkjun has been involved in the extensive land reclamation and re-forestation of the areas surrounding their power stations for many years. The aim of land reclamation is to reinstate land quality, reduce disturbance to vegetated areas and stop soil erosion and vegetation destruction. Increased knowledge on climate change has led to such reclamation projects being carried out with carbon binding measures in mind. Landsvirkjun has participated in projects focusing on carbon binding measures.
  • 18 Effects on the ecosystem

    All construction work carried out by Landsvirkjun and all its operations are accompanied by unavoidable disturbance to the natural environment and to the ecosystem. Extensive research and monitoring is carried out in the affected areas of power stations. The objective is to assess if and how operations affect the environment and how any negative impact on the environment can be minimised. The most extensive monitoring carried out by Landsvirkjun includes reindeer monitoring, freshwater ecology and birdlife. Research is carried out in cooperation with the various universities, research institutes and independent experts.
  • 19 Erosion and sedimentation

    Changes to the water flow in rivers and the water levels in reservoirs, as well as the effects of wind, water and tide can lead to the erosion of river channels and river banks. Bed load transport from glacial rivers can accumulate in the reservoirs. Landsvirkjun does its best to regulate the water flow in river channels to minimise erosion. Regular monitoring on erosion and sedimentation is carried out and mitigation measures are implemented when and if they are needed.
  • 20 Disturbance to land

    Disturbance to the land as a result of development, construction and operations can have an effect on the ecosystem and the natural environment. Disturbance to land can be caused by material extraction, the construction and location of reservoirs, facilities construction and the construction of dams and waterways. Landsvirkjun is committed to keeping disturbance to the land to a minimum in all stages of development and finishing work is completed once construction work ceases in order to return the land to its former state.
  • 21 Visual impact and landscaping

    All construction work carried out by Landsvirkjun and all its operations are accompanied by unavoidable disturbance to the natural environment and larger projects can have a significant visual impact. The effects vary and are determined by the type of landscape involved and the effect on the public. Landsvirkjun places an emphasis on creating a balance between its manmade structures, the landscape and the natural environment during the design process.

Careful development of utilisation

A special emphasis has been placed on environmental aspects during all preparation work for the Þeistareykir Geothermal Power Station. A 90 MW geothermal power station, built in two phases, is the first step in the careful development of sustainable geothermal utilisation in Þeistareykir. An environmental impact assessment has been carried out for anything up to a 200 MW power station in Þeistareykir. Preparation work was completed on the project in 2014 and an emphasis was placed on landscaping and finishing work reaching completion alongside construction work.


MW 45 First phase



Regular research and monitoring has been conducted within the Þeistareykir utilisation area since 2002. Researching the area during the preparation, construction and operational stage will give an overall picture of how and if the operation of geothermal power stations affect the geothermal resource and the environment.


Sustainable utilisation of natural resources

Landsvirkjun utilises geothermal energy, hydropower and wind energy to generate electricity. The Company monitors hydrology and the geothermal systems within affected areas. The objective of this is to minimise any negative impact and to monitor any long-term changes which could affect natural resources and the environment.


12.807 GWh

Landsvirkjun generated 12,807 GWh of electrical energy in 2014. Landsvirkjun delivered 13,085 GWh of energy in 2014 which is a decrease of 22 GWh from 2013; a record year for Landsvirkjun.

Total energy generation


  • Hydropower: 12,316.6G GWh
  • Geothermal energy: 483.7 GWh
  • Wind energy: 6.7 GWh

Transport Policy

Landsvirkjun has outlined a transport policy where the main focus is the reduction of fossil fuel consumption in Company operations. An emphasis is also placed on carbon binding measures and active participation in an energy exchange plan for Iceland.


Carbon neutral operations

Landsvirkjun is committed to reducing its GHG emissions and intends to become a carbon neutral company. Landsvirkjun works consistently to reduce the emission of pollutants and to reduce noise from its operations in the environment.


Positive progress

The largest source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions can be traced to Landsvirkjun’s geothermal power stations and the reservoirs at the Company’s hydropower stations. Other sources include the burning of fossil fuels and incineration of waste. The total quantity of GHG emissions from Landsvirkjun’s operations in 2014 was approx. 53 thousand tonnes of CO2 equivalent. This is a 7% increase when compared with 2013. However, emissions were 5% less than the average for the last five years which is positive progress.


Effects on the natural environment and visual aspects

Large-scale construction projects can have an extensive visual impact. Landsvirkjun places an emphasis on maintaining a balance between the design of manmade structures, landscaping and the natural environment.

Wind farm above Búrfell


Proposed wind farm


Visual impact is a significant factor during the design process for wind farms. Preparation measures include an analysis of the land area and assessing the visual impact of structures. Visual models are created to show the land area once construction is completed.


Monitoring environmental aspects

Extensive information on the natural environment and society is an important factor during any preliminary preparation work for new power projects. Landsvirkjun conducts extensive monitoring and research during the preparation and operation stage of any power project to assess how and if Landsvirkjun’s operations affect the environment.

Monitoring results showed that the construction of the Kárahnjúkar Hydropower Station did not have a negative impact on the growth and welfare of the reindeer population in the Snæfell wilderness.

Research continued on birdlife, freshwater ecology and reindeer within areas affected by Landsvirkjun’s operations. Monitoring was also carried out on erosion and sedimentation within water catchment areas and action was taken to reclaim land quality via land reclamation measures.


The transparent presentation of data

Landsvirkjun’s Environmental Report is only published digitally. The Company is committed to the transparent presentation of data in order to support open and constructive dialogue on the Company’s success rate in environmental matters.