The increasing demand for electricity has resulted in new opportunities for Iceland to diversify its electricity generation methods with new energy sources such as wind. Landsvirkjun has, in recent years, explored the potential of harnessing wind power in Iceland. The area between Búrfell and Sultartangi has been the main focus of those efforts.
Increased energy needs
Landsvirkjun is a leader in the sustainable use of renewable energy sources and is committed to supporting increased expertise, technological development and innovation. Wind energy is the fastest growing sector of all renewable energy sources in the world. Tremendous progress has been made within a short period of time, and investment- and operational costs have decreased significantly. The possible synergy of wind- and hydropower electricity generation is high. Hydropower is a secure and stable energy option, but the additional integration of wind energy could promote higher efficiency levels by allowing hydropower stations to reduce generation and accumulate water in reservoirs when wind levels are high and increase production when wind speeds drop. This interaction is particularly promising at the proposed Búrfell Wind Farm and proves that the utilisation of wind energy is not only a viable option, but also an economical one.
Energy procurement opportunities at Landsvirkjun are dependent upon research, development and licensing, which can be a time consuming process. Landsvirkjun is continually involved in exploring new energy options to remain at the forefront of this process. Wind energy is a particularly attractive option as it could level out fluctuations in supply throughout different periods of the year.
Landsvirkjun believes that the construction of the Búrfell Wind Farm will help to fulfil increasing energy demands, both residential and industrial, in Iceland. Landsvirkjun’s role is to consistently endeavour to maximise the potential yield and value of the natural resources it has been entrusted with in a sustainable, responsible and efficient manner. Wind energy is a feasible option to fulfil these ideals, as the operation of the research wind turbines shows a promising future where more powerful, large-scale wind turbines in the area would result in an increased capacity factor.
The construction time for the installation of wind turbines is significantly shorter than that of hydroelectric and geothermal power projects. They can be easily adapted to meet market demands at any given time, and the environmental impact is mostly reversible.
Wind energy capacity
In December 2012, Landsvirkjun constructed two research wind turbines in the Haf area. The operation of the turbines has far surpassed all expectations of the project and has provided valuable information regarding wind energy utilisation and the turbines’ durability in Icelandic conditions. Wind measurements have been taken with more accuracy since the beginning of 2014. The measurements are more extensive than those previously measured and confirm wind energy capacity more accurately. Measurement data is used for a detailed analysis of wind speed, wind direction and the effect of icing within the area.
The yearly average capacity factor for the research wind turbines is over 40%, and preliminary calculations for the potential capacity of the Búrfell Wind Farm indicate that the average capacity factor could reach 50% on average. Research confirms that wind levels are both strong and stable within the entire construction area.
Three proposals have been put forward for the demarcation of the Búrfell Wind Farm. The proposals were as follows:
A total area of 34 km2 in the Rangárþing ytra Municipality.
A total area of 40 km2 in the Rangárþing ytra and Skeiða & Gnúpverjahreppur Municipalities.
A total area of 33 km2 in the Rangárþing ytra Municipality. The area is located within the limits outlined in proposals 1 and 2.
Plans have been made to construct a 200 MW wind farm in a lava and sand plain area, located to the east of the Þjórsá River in the Haf area where Landsvirkjun already operates two wind turbines for research purposes. The mast height, with blades at their highest position, is expected to be less than 150 m. The number of wind turbines at the farm will vary depending on the rated capacity of each turbine, but it is estimated that there will be somewhere between 58 units with a 3.5 MW rated capacity and 67 units with a 3.0 MW rated capacity.
Various interrelated factors were considered during the site selection process for the Búrfell Wind Farm including meteorological conditions, the natural environment, wildlife and other environmental aspects, as well as the relevant planning and infrastructure in the area.
The Regional Plan for the Central Highlands of Iceland 2015 defines the proposed construction area as an area reserved for ‘construction belt, which is the name given to areas where main mountain roads and structures associated with electricity generation are authorised. The operation of power stations in the Þjórsá and Tungnaá area dates back to 1969. The area is now home to six hydropower stations: The Vatnsfell, Sigalda, Hrauneyjafoss, Búðarháls, Sultartangi and Búrfell Hydropower Stations. Other structures in the area include tailrace canals, reservoirs, quarries, roads and five transmission lines for electricity. The proposed Búrfell Wind Farm will be located within one of the largest energy generation areas in Iceland; thus the area has already been disturbed by development. This fact weighed heavily when the site was selected for the Búrfell Wind Farm since the existing infrastructure will reduce the environmental impact of proposed construction.
Meteorological conditions are favourable for the operation of wind farms in the area and were taken into account during the site selection process. Extensive knowledge has been acquired on meteorological conditions in the area throughout the last two decades as wind measurements have been taken since 1993. Landsvirkjun has successfully operated two research wind turbines in the area over the past three years. This past experience eliminates all doubt related to the viability of the proposed construction site for wind energy utilisation.
The yearly average capacity factor for the research wind turbines is over 40%. Preliminary calculations for the potential capacity of the Búrfell Wind Farm indicate that average capacity factor could reach 50%, on average, which would be one of the highest capacity factors in the world for this type of energy production.
The proposed construction site is not defined as a protected area and is beyond the parameters of the uninhabited wilderness defined in Article 5 of the Nature Conservation Act no. 60/2013. The site is somewhat demarcated by a mountain range to the east and west, which would reduce the visual impact of the wind farm.
Landsvirkjun believes the site location provides an appropriate operational environment, minimises any disruption to the environment that wind farms create, and limits the visual impacts associated with development. The combination of these factors makes the site very attractive for development.
Búrfellslundur Wind Farm EIA report
The Búrfellslundur Wind Farm EIA report can be accessed here.
Further discussion on construction is in chapter 3
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