In a new $100million project being co-ordinated by Iceland's Geothermal Research Group (GEORG) and the British Geological Survey, with the participation of 38 institutes and companies from 11 countries including the United States, Canada and Russia, researchers will study the possibility of producing geothermal energy directly from magma for the first time. If successful the method could produce up to 10 times more energy than is available from a conventional well.
It would also enable Iceland to export more energy and could revive a plan to build a power cable from Iceland to Britain in what would be the world's longest power interconnector.
Iceland, which produces all its electricity from geothermal energy and hydropower, agreed with Britain in 2016 to study building the 1000 km long IceLink cable, but those plans were delayed owing to Britain's vote to leave the European Union and concern in Iceland that exports would increase power prices at home and reduce the island's attractiveness to energy-intensive industries such as data centres. But the UK’s National Grid is known to have a continuing interest in the interconnector.
The magma project, called Krafla Magma Testbed, will involve drilling a shaft 2.1 km deep directly into a magma chamber below the Krafla volcano in northern Iceland.
The first phase of the project is planned to start by 2020 and will cost $30 million, the British Geological Survey estmates. The study also aims to explore the mechanism of eruptions to protect communities from volcanic disasters. BGS said it was confident of securing the financing as a number of countries and companies had expressed interest in contributing, but did not give details.